The omicron variant has the world in a panic. A respiratory virus is no laughing matter, but you don’t have to look far to see the humour in the world’s response to this latest development in the Covid-19 saga.
Within the last 72 hours, the world has been gripped by a new wave of fear over omicron, the new Covid-19 “variant of concern” discovered in Botswana. International borders have snapped shut, stock markets have tumbled, and the media has swarmed to the story like bees to a honeypot.
The Spectator Australia explains why the omicron variant, also known as B.1.1.529, has sparked some concern among scientists:
We have had numerous variants emerge this year, few of which have succeeded in establishing themselves as a real concern. But what is worrying virologists about Omicron is that it has an unusually high number of mutations — 50, according to South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation.
Moreover, 30 of these are in the virus’s spike protein, which it uses to attach itself to human cells. This is concerning because it is the spike protein on which Covid vaccines have been working. If the spike protein changes, it could potentially create a variant that may evade existing vaccines.
Covid-19 is of course no laughing matter. Nevertheless, the out-of-proportion panic surrounding the omicron variant, and some of the facts surrounding it, are quite amusing.
1. It Was Likely Named to Avoid Offending a Communist Dictator
The World Health Organisation has adopted the convention of using letters of the Greek alphabet to name Covid-19 variants. The previous variant of concern was mu, so it was unusual for WHO to skip two letters of the alphabet — nu and xi — to name the most recent omicron.
This is interesting. The last “variant of concern” was Nu. The next letter in the Greek alphabet is Xi. Yet for some reason they’ve skipped right over that and named the new Christmas-canceller “Omicron” … 🤔🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/vEVq8uii23
— James Morrow (@pwafork) November 26, 2021
Many observers have suggested that this decision was made to avoid offending Chinese President Xi Jinping. This would be consistent with the behaviour of the WHO towards China since the beginning of the pandemic. As I have previously written,
Nearly every step of the way — whether on the magnitude of the threat, masking advice, the reopening of wet markets, or the role of the Wuhan lab — the World Health Organisation was both wrong and unapologetic in its deference to the deceitful Communist leadership of China.
Responding to its critics, the WHO has defended its decision, telling the Epoch Times,
Two letters were skipped — Nu and Xi — because Nu is too easily confounded with ‘new’ and Xi was not used because it is a common surname and [the] WHO best practices for naming new diseases … suggest avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups’.
The national group the WHO has in mind, it would seem, is the Chinese Communist Party and the sensitive feelings of its leader.
2. Prominent Voices are Urging Against Panic
Listen to mainstream news and you may conclude that the omicron variant is about to wipe out humanity. But there are plenty of prominent voices calling for calm.
One of these is Dr Angelique Coetzee, who first discovered the variant. She is a doctor with 30 years’ experience and she chairs the South African Medical Association (SAMA). Dr Coetzee called the variant’s symptoms “unusual but mild,” adding:
It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well … So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.
Dr Coetzee explained that her patients had all been healthy before they contracted the virus and that its effects on the elderly, unvaccinated or those with co-morbidities could be more severe. But she labelled the various travel bans “hasty” and a “storm in a teacup”.
Speaking with Today, Nick Coatsworth, a former federal deputy chief health officer, explained that omicron may in fact be a blessing in disguise.
“You want it to out compete Delta and become the pro-dominant circulating virus,” he said. “It could be that we want Omicron to spread around the world as quickly as possible.”
“I definitely don’t think we should be waking up to any sort of panic,” he added, explaining that the fear being expressed thus far is over what we don’t know about omicron, rather than what we do.
World Health Organisation spokesperson Christian Lindmeier also urged against panic. “At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against … the WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing (curbs).”
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed, saying it “strongly discourages the imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported this variant,” given that “over the duration of this pandemic, we have observed that imposing bans on travellers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome.”
3. The Omicron Variant Has Solved Racism!
In early 2020, we were told in the strongest possible terms that closing borders to certain nations was an act of blatant xenophobia — because, of course, it was Donald Trump enacting those closures.
But now that President Joe Biden has closed America’s borders to seven African nations, closing borders is no longer a xenophobic policy. Racism has been solved!
Effective Monday, the Biden Administration is banning travel for non-U.S citizens from South Africa, and 7 African nations due to a new Covid variant, despite previously criticizing this strategy as xenophobic. pic.twitter.com/i1xj7zQkCP
— American Pigeon (@AmericanPigeon) November 26, 2021
Even if the corporate press refuses to criticise the hypocrisy of the White House, not everyone is pleased with it. In an address on Sunday, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said,
We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions…
This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome last month.
The prohibition of travel is not informed by science … The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.
4. The Name of the New Variant Has a Fun Anagram
If you rearrange the name omicron, you get the word moronic.
That seems a reasonably summary of the situation so far!