“It could be good or bad.”
In the end, nearly all of us will get COVID-19.
The COVID-19 mutation called Omicron has proved more infectious and more pernicious than its Delta predecessor.
On Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, the number of Philippine COVID cases due to Omicron reached 33,169—the highest toll in one day since COVID erupted in Manila in March 2020. That is 27 percent higher than the previous record daily high of 26,218 cases reported on Sept. 11, 2021, and the highest since we reached a low of 107 cases on Dec. 23, 2021.
Monday’s record 33,169 one day volume of cases brought total active cases to 157,526—the highest since we began the third wave of the COVID virus since March 2020.
During the first wave, the highest active cases numbered 203,748 on April 17, 2021. During the second wave, the highest active cases totalled 182,001 on Sept. 12, 2021. The fact that active cases have not exceeded the two previous record numbers of active cases in the first and second waves could mean that indeed, Omicron could be a mild form of the virus and that it is easy to be cured from it.
However, the fact that Omicron has exceeded the two previous high daily numbers of the first wave (15,280 on April 2, 2021) and the second wave (26,202 on Sept. 11, 2021) means Omicron indeed is very infectious—as much as five to seven times they say, as the Delta variant.
Because of Omicron, many cities and places in the world are in physical and virtual lockdown. Japan has closed its borders. Australia too. Austria locked down early in January. French President Macron wants to piss off the unvaccinated. China is testing entire cities for Omicron. Many trains are banned from entering the capital, Beijing.
For most of the world’s unvaccinated, life is becoming miserable. Nobody wants them. The most notable anti-vaccine pariah is current tennis No. 1 and Australian open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Having been previously infected, he does not want to be vaccinated. Except for a judge, Australia wants nothing to do with Djokovic.
That most of us will get COVID could be both bad and good.
Bad because having so many people getting sick at the same time will overwhelm clinics, hospitals, and doctors and nurses who themselves are getting sick.
With the health system overwhelmed, there will be a crisis. A crisis will force the government to do the easiest, and worst, a total lockdown, where anything and anyone that should move, will be forced to stop moving. That will paralyze the economy. Economic paralysis means P49 billion stolen daily by COVID. Most businesses must shut down. Millions must be laid off.
Good because Omicron is basically mild—if you get sick, you won’t get serious and you probably won’t die. Good because being infected means an opportunity to have natural immunity. Having so many people sick means as many people acquiring immunity from COVID due to prior infection.
“Most Omicron cases will be mild, thus eliminating the need for stringent lockdowns,” says Filipino scientist Nicanor R. Austriaco Jr., who is also a Dominican priest. In Father Austriaco’s mind, Omicron is not at all undesirable. It can be good for mankind. Omicron, after all, is a clever virus.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been infected with COVID for the second time. The Mexican leader had previously taken a cavalier attitude toward COVID and taken three doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. His advice to Mexicans: If you have colds, you have COVID.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease may cause around three billion infections across the world in the next two months, a research report has predicted.
“That would mean as many infections as were seen in the first two years of the pandemic,” reported Hindustan Times on Dec. 23, 2021, citing a report released that day by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Peak transmissions could be in mid-January with over 35 million infections being registered worldwide in a day.
The virus having run out of victims and hosts will thus die a natural death. COVID will be as common as common cold, so the so-called scientific theory goes, as propounded by Father Austriaco, a molecular microbiologist and a professor of biology and theology in the US. The pandemic becomes endemic—a natural happening that most people won’t mind unless they themselves are infected.
So now, there will be three means of achieving immunity from COVID—natural immunity due to previous infection, vaccination, and boosters (preferably once every six months).
“If you are vaccinated and boosted, you should not be terrified. You should be prudent,” advises Father Austriaco. “It causes milder disease because, although it is able to infect the nose and throat of patients more efficiently, it struggles to infect their lungs,” the jolly priest added during a Jan. 5 town hall by GoNegosyo.
The problem is that the latest mutation of the COVID-19 virus, the Omicron does not want to play ball. It keeps infecting those three kinds of people –those with previous infection, those with vaccines, and those with boosters. They call these cases breakthrough infections and Omicron is very good at it.
“The Omicron variant is a sobering reminder that the immunity you do have – whether due to natural infection, vaccine, or vaccine booster- is not unassailable,” says Dr. JoAnn Jose, an infectious disease specialist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in the US. She says that a variant with the right combination of mutations can overcome immunity.
Still, Father Austriaco insists, “Omicron is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.” “We [need to] live our full lives,” he says.
In a personal note: May I greet happy birthday, this Jan. 11, to my second child and second daughter, Ivy Lopez Cabaltica. She is an Ateneo-educated lawyer and married to another Ateneo-educated lawyer, Benedict Cabaltica, who is also a CPA. California-based, they have three wonderful kids, my apos, Enzo, Gio, and Audrey.
I love you, anak.