Myth busting Omicron – or no, we didn’t have to live with the virus.

A lot of conservative governments justify their policies during this pandemic with the mantra that we all have to ‘live with Covid’.

Why? Apparently because we’re all going to get it eventually.

Even a relatively trusted source like Dr John Campbell maintains that ‘everyone will get Omicron’ – supposedly because it’s so contagious. Yet the actual numbers don’t add up, even in the UK.

This is a screenshot I took this morning which shows the total number of people infected with Covid-19 in the UK…since the pandemic began:

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases?areaType=overview&areaName=United%20Kingdom

The comments in red and green are mine. I wanted to see how many people in the UK had not had any of the Covid-19 variants. The number ended up being 50 million.

Now I know that the official figures don’t include those who were infected but had only very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, so I’m going to double the official figure from 18 million to 36 million.

Revised estimate of people infected with Covid-19 variants = 36 million

When you subtract 36M from 68M you get 32M who have never been infected with any of the Covid-19 variants, and that’s after two years and multiple variants, including Omicron B1. Curiously, data from the UK seems to show that 68% of those infected with Omicron have been re-infected. In other words, previous exposure did not give them immunity against the variant.

Why am I banging on about stats and who has or hasn’t been infected in the UK? The answer is simple:

  • I hate grand sweeping generalisations that are not based on actual data and,
  • much of what we do here in Australia seems to reflect the trends happening in the UK… and the conservative government there wants to open up completely, based on the narrative that everyone will get the virus anyway, so they may as well make the best of it.

The truth is a little more nuanced. According to everything I understand about herd immunity, you need to have at least 70% of the total population immune to a virus for the herd immunity effect to kick in. Not just recovered from the infection but actually immune to it.

Why 70%? because that’s roughly the number of immune people you need to stop the virus from being able to replicate – i.e. spread through the community:

Herd immunity ‘ring fences’ the virus

Essentially, people who have already had the infection – and are immune to it – crowd out the new infections, so even if someone is sick and shedding the virus all over the place, that virus is falling on people who are already immune so it can’t replicate. It’s been ring-fenced.

So let’s have a look at the UK. Are they at 70% yet?

No, they’re not. More importantly, immunity gained from earlier variants of the virus doesn’t seem to provide immunity against the current variants.

In other words, having had the virus once does not guarantee you won’t get the virus again, and that means there can be no herd immunity.

The lack of herd immunity means that those who have never had the virus are not protected. Therefore, learning to ‘live with the virus’ has nothing to do with protecting the vulnerable. It is ALL about protecting the economy.

Let me be more specific. The policy of living with the virus is essentially throwing all the vulnerable members of the population under the bus. Some will live, some won’t.

So who are these vulnerable people?

They include all the conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers for sure, but they also include those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – i.e. because the vaccine would have a negative reaction with their particular medication or treatment – or those with compromised immune systems for whom the vaccines are much less effective. But the list also includes those who have been fully vaccinated.

The current crop of vaccines were developed for the earlier variants and are much less effective against Omicron, so in a way, we’re right back at the start of the pandemic when we didn’t have any vaccines at all. Until a vaccine specifically designed to target Omicron and its siblings comes along, even being fully vaccinated is no guarantee of protection.

Yes, Omicron et al., may be milder than Delta, but it’s not mild. Calling it ‘mild’ instead of ‘milder’ was a neat bit of spin to justify opening up completely. Only now are we seeing how deadly this ‘mild’ virus actually is.

So why are our governments getting away with this? The answer is rather brutal: right from the start, they told people that “…only the elderly, the disabled or those with ‘co-morbidities’ will die so…don’t panic”.

The nett effect of this messaging has been to make the age groups most likely to spread the virus resent those most likely to die from it.

Why should young, healthy people have to suffer lockdowns and restrictions to save a bunch of people who are probably ‘going to die anyway’?

I believe that question, and the resentment that goes with it, is why conspiracy theories have gained such traction. People don’t want to admit how they feel so they latch onto mad stories about legitimate targets – i.e. governments and large corporations.

To be honest, my trust in governments and large corporations is pretty damn low, but the bottom line is that the people in these age groups want to live with Covid…because they don’t think it will affect them. They believe they are immortal so they don’t consider the possibility that they might have a ‘co-morbidity’ without knowing it. They don’t think about long Covid, and what it could do to the rest of their lives. They just resent having those lives interrupted for the sake of a bunch of people they don’t care about anyway.

Which brings me to a rather painful question: if a majority of people in a democracy want to let people die, is a government justified in giving them what they want?

I believe the answer is no. Once elected, the representatives of any democratic government are bound to protect everyone in that democracy, even those who voted against them or those who may have become a ‘liability’.

Protecting all members of society is the cornerstone of the social contract our parents accepted on our behalf when we were born: we give a select group of people a certain amount of power over us in exchange for the protection of the group. Why else obey laws or pay taxes?

Once that core promise of society is broken, trust dies and society falls apart.

We don’t talk about trust much, but everything in society depends on it. Trust allows us to use bits of paper as ‘money’. Trust allows us to walk around without being in fear of our lives. At its most basic, trust allows us to trust others.

Trust in government and ‘the capitalist system’ has been falling for decades now. I truly fear for the future of Western democracies.

Meeks

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

90 responses to “Myth busting Omicron – or no, we didn’t have to live with the virus.

  • Matthew Wright

    My GP told me everybody will get Omicron. I fear he’s right, but optimistically hope everybody won’t. That doesn’t excuse the way governments have been essentially letting it rip. I understand the politics of it: today’s generation is used to swift gratification, and the years-long endurance of (say) the WW2 generation to accept a situation isn’t there. Governments are under pressure from business to reopen society, under pressure from populations to end health-driven regulations. But it does mean that, as you say, there are going to be people thrown under the bus along the way.

    On matters of the numbers not adding up – yes, we’ve had the issue here in NZ too. This morning one of the chief epidemiologists suggested that the official numbers were understating the spread by a factor of 10. Reasons include ‘Covid weariness’ in the population – people simply aren’t bothering to get tested; delays in testing where people don’t do so until they get sick; and the fact that there will be asymptomatic cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      -sigh- Even during the Black Death, not everyone caught the plague. I simply do not accept the idea that ‘everyone’ will catch Omicron. There’s too much wishful thinking going on:
      1. everyone will catch it so trying to stop it only delays the inevitable…
      2. once people recover from it they’ll be immune to future variants so it’s BEST if everyone catches it…
      3. once everyone’s had Omicron B1 AND B2 we’ll have herd immunity…

      There’s no proof for any of this. When Omicron was first hailed as the ‘saviour of the pandemic’, no one knew about B1 and B2. And what if there’s a B3? Or another unrelated branch of the Covid-19 virus family rears its ugly head?

      Immunity to one ‘common cold’ doesn’t guarantee immunity from a different strain. Why should Covid-19 be any different?
      And last but not least, what if China proves that Omicron can be stopped? How will the West justify all the deaths then?

      Sorry Matthew, this is personal for me.

      Like

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