It has been two years to the day since covid-19 — the alpha variant — was declared a global health emergency on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Thanks to endemicity or the availability of vaccines, the outbreak seems to have plateaued and countries across the world are easing regulations put in place to contain the deadly virus, which has so far claimed a reported 6,054,401 lives globally and 991,540 lives in the U.S.
But is the threat of covid-19 really over?
“Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over – and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus on March 9.
Almost 500 million people have been infected with the coronavirus since March 2020 and new variants are still a threat.
All previous plateaus have been followed by a new and more widespread upsurge, usually associated with a new variant.
New studies warn that the omicron BA.2 variant is more transmissible than omicron BA.1 — and that it is quickly overtaking the previous variant in one country after another, WSWS.org reported. A University of Tokyo study concluded that BA.2 is the most dangerous variant yet.
Although BA.2 is more contagious than BA.1, clinical data do not suggest a significant difference in disease severity, according to Medical News Today.
One study estimates that BA.2 is up to 33 percent more transmissible than BA.1 and that its spread could be a serious issue for global health in the near future.
The pandemic is not yet over and data shows that cases among older people are on the rise, according to Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency.
Covid cases appear to be rising in older people as socializing increases, immunity wanes and a more transmissible version threatens to fuel a resurgence.
Omicron, which researchers first sequenced in South Africa and Botswana in November 2021, was found to be more transmissible but caused less severe disease than its predecessor, the delta variant.
Scientists have so far categorized three omicron subvariants – BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3 — which account for almost all of the sequenced cases globally, according to the WHO.
The proportion of covid-19 cases linked to the BA.2 variant has been rapidly increasing, especially in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.
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A study conducted in Denmark in late December 2021 and January 2022 showed that fully vaccinated and boosted individuals were less likely to pass on or contract an infection due to either subvariant compared with unvaccinated individuals.
“Prospects for the rest of the year and beyond hinge on the questions of whether and when future variants will emerge. As long as Omicron remains the dominant variant, there is reason for relative optimism,” global consulting firm McKinsey said in an analysis.
A study at the University of Tokyo, which compared omicron BA.1 and BA.2, concluded that BA.2 is so different that it should be classified as a full-fledged new variant.
BA.2 was found to be 30 percent more vaccine-resistant than BA.1 and 17 times more vaccine-resistant than the delta variant, according to WSWS.org.
Photo: Chief Master Sergeant Wendell J. Snider receives a covid vaccine at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 29, 2021. By Joint Base San Antonio / Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbsapublicaffairs/
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