OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
The pandemic is ending? And it’s because of the Omicron variant? We didn’t have that on our 2022 Covid lockdown, masks-forever bingo card, but that’s the news coming out of Europe.
Denmark’s chief epidemiologist, Tyra Grove Krause, spoke with Danish TV 2 in an interview and said that a study from Denmark’s State Serum Institute where she works shows that the risk of ending up in the hospital from Omicron is half that of the Delta variant.
Because of that, Krause said ‘we will have our normal lives back in two months.’
The leading epidemiologist went on to say that ‘I think we will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back.’
Krause’s peer, Viggo Andreasen, an associate professor and mathematical epidemiologist at Denmark’s Department of Science and the Environment, agrees with her and says that Omicron will become “something more reminiscent of a cold.” Andreasen made the statement in an interview with Danish TV 2 after Krause’s.
Krause said that Omicron could actually end the pandemic despite early fears that it was prolonging the pandemic due to an increased level of infection.
The study states that: ‘Omicron is here to stay, and it will provide some massive spread of infection in the coming month. When it’s over, we’re in a better place than we were before.’
Yet, the expert said that, despite the soaring infection rates in countries with the Omicron variant, the disease appears milder than the Delta variant, and therefore more people will be infected without displaying symptoms.
Consequently, this would provide the population with a high level of immunity.
Danish cases of the infection have spiked in recent weeks, and on Sunday registered an average of 20,886 infections across the previous week, which is one of Europe’s highest rates of 3,592.74 per million people.
Despite this, Ms Krause emphasized that there was still work to be done in the months to come to beat the pandemic.
‘Omicron will peak at the end of January, and in February we will see declining infection pressure and a decreasing pressure on the health care system,’ warned Krause.
‘But we have to make an effort in January, because it will be hard to get through.’
Krause said that Danes should follow long-established measures to slow the spread, including keeping a low profile, staying at home when symptoms appear, and practicing good hygiene.
Omicron’s spreading influence will continue to exert pressure on Denmark’s health care system, she said. ‘This is definitely what will be the challenge in the future.’
Andreasen is optimistic about Omicron ending the pandemic but puts the peak in February, not January. He said the reason for this is about half the population needs to be infected for the peak to come down. ‘And that is probably what you should expect to have to do before the epidemic starts to fall again,’ he said.
An equally positive announcement came three days earlier from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization.
According to him, if we end the world’s inequality in vaccines by 2022, we will be able to stop the pandemic. It is still necessary to vaccinate large portions of non-western countries.
Jens Lundgren, a professor of infectious diseases at Rigshospitalet, the largest hospital in Denmark, says that with Omicron, we will see society normalizing in a few months, also. Agreeing with Krause’s prediction of the peak, he told Danish TV 2, ‘It will probably peak sometime during January and then phase out of society again. That is the expectation when we are dealing with a very contagious virus.’
Lundgren went on to say that, ‘overall, Omicron is less pathogenic.’
The end of the pandemic can’t come soon enough, especially for parents.
Because of the outbreak of COVID-19 cases, some school systems extended their holiday break Monday or returned to online instruction, while others continued with in-person classes as Americans seem to come to terms with the threat.
At the beginning of the second half of the academic year, school districts in cities such as Milwaukee, New York, Detroit, among others, found themselves caught between the fears of teachers and the desire of parents to let their children attend school.
With roughly 1 million take-home COVID-19 testing kits and a plan to double the number of random tests at schools, New York City, home to the nation’s largest public school system, has reopened schools to about 1 million students.
The economy is feeling the strain, also.
COVID-19 cases have tripled in the U.S. in the past two weeks, reaching over 400,000 cases a day, a record number amid a rush by many Americans to get tested, as the epidemic reaches a fever pitch. The spread of this epidemic is placing great pressure on vital economic sectors, such as hospitals and aviation, which are seeing substantial numbers of their employees become infected.
But take heart as Dr. Krause says, ‘we will have our normal lives back in two months.’