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Op-Ed: COVID — New spike and ‘endemic’ status is a serious threat

A hospital worker plays guitar for a Covid patient in Brazil. — © Tarso Sarraf / AFP/File - Getty Images
A hospital worker plays guitar for a Covid patient in Brazil. — © Tarso Sarraf / AFP/File - Getty Images

Johns Hopkins statistics have been showing some grim trends and odd numbers:
• USA: Down from 200 – 300K to around 60,000 per day but steady at that rate for the last week.
• UK: Well down from an astonishing 63K daily to about 3K. UK figures also show 13,435 recovered with over 2.8 million infections? Seems an incredibly small number, if it’s not a typo.
• Brazil: A nasty average of around 85K per day to 100K, numbers haven’t gone down at all.
• Germany: Patchy around 25K per day, second spike in progress.
• France: Second spike in progress at roughly 50K per day.
• India: Gigantic second spike over 100K per day in the last week.
• Italy: Second spike has decreased dramatically from a rough 20K average to 13K on most recent figures.
• Spain: Second spike decreased to about 10K per day.
• Poland: Large second spike at 35K has decreased to 14K per day in the last few days.
• Mexico: Similar graphic pattern to USA, second spike decreasing and infections in much smaller numbers.
Of course, these numbers don’t include “long COVID” stats. It’s hard to tell how many people have actually recovered. At the time of writing, there are 133,760,945 people infected worldwide, and 76,036,929 recovered officially. (The number of infections went up by about 149,000 while I was writing this article.)
That’s a gigantic gap in infections and recoveries. Nearly 58 million people are not recovered and may be considered current infections. That is a very dangerous statistic indeed.
What “endemic” really means
The word “endemic” refers to a medical condition which is regularly found in a specific area. A (very) rough analogy would be malaria, well-known in the tropics and equatorial regions. Influenza, before it was put out of business by COVID, was the world’s endemic virus, with different contagious strains emerging from anywhere and everywhere.
An endemic disease also means a major local economic and health burden on societies. The disease circulates among the population more or less constantly. The sheer number of people infected ensure that others will be infected. This is a much-too-familiar epidemiological cycle, and it’s the most dangerous part of the COVID pandemic.
Put simply:
• If there are enough infected people around, the virus can continue to regenerate and mutate, creating new, more infectious strains of itself. Influenza started as a highly transmissible virus, but mutated into a much less dangerous form.
• COVID seems to be doing the exact opposite. Early cases of COVID were famously not serious in many cases. Now, the more virulent forms seem to be far more contagious and less likely to cause minor symptoms.
“Endemic” COVID can therefore mean that the more dangerous and more infectious forms of the virus will continue to be around for a long time. That means that “long COVID” will also increase.
Most of the world has had so many infections that globally endemic COVID seems very likely. Thanks to the astonishingly sloppy, if not actually insane, responses to the initial outbreak, this is the overall situation that needs to be addressed.
A matter of trust?
The vaccinations do seem to be having an impact, but it’ll be months before a clear “game over” trend can be confirmed, if at all. It’s also unclear whether the new viral forms will be contained by the current generation of vaccines.
Regardless of anti-vax nuts, conspiracy theories, and mindless repetitions of failed 2020 election mantras, there are real issues, too. The Astra Zeneca vaccine is a case in point. Blood clots aren’t too hilarious as a “side effect”. Nor are chronic pain, major rashes, and similar responses.
Explain to me the logic whereby Deep Vein Thrombosis was such a problem that pressure stockings became essential for air travel, but multiple documented fatalities and low percentile but high risks for vaccinations are acceptable?
There’s no way of knowing for how long the current vaccinations will be effective at preventing future infections. Some have said less than a year. Since COVID is a virus, that’s ballpark in terms of likelihood.
Broader measures are also lacking. UVC, for example, is known to kill viruses and be safe for humans. A simple light could disinfect public spaces. Nothing but talk and research is happening.
Public awareness, that odd thing, is also still subject to massive amounts of disinformation which is truly throwing spanners into the pandemic control works:
• “The Plandemic” – This is perhaps the most grotesque theory of all, coming from the far-right and nowhere else, is that someone is using the pandemic as a method of controlling the public. Such a “plan” would be suicidal at best for anyone trying it.
• “Migrants cause COVID” – No, they don’t. You can go anywhere in any country on Earth and bring the virus back with you. This bizarre, baseless, statement has no credibility at all but is spouted on social media all the time.
• Undermining public safety – The no-masks-needed/crowds are OK approach to public health is definitely, obviously, premature worldwide. The numbers of infected people must go down to stop the pandemic, and that’s all there is to it. The more people don’t wear masks, the more people get infected.
Endemic COVID means the pandemic will never really end. It is utterly irresponsible, far beyond foolhardy, to do anything at all which allows its spread.
Wilful disregard of COVID safety should be a criminal offense. Anyone who thinks they have the “right” to cripple people for perhaps years or decades or kill people by spreading disease, should be taken off the street. It’s time to get tough, or this damn disease will have beaten humanity.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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