This is the year we come out of Covid, writes Professor KAROL SIKORA

This is the year we come out of Covid… only fear will stop Britain from putting the virus behind us now, writes Professor KAROL SIKORA

Allow me to make two bold predictions: this is the year we come out of Covid – and by the summer, the pandemic will be over. 

My confidence that the crisis is coming to a natural end is not based on empty optimism.

South Africa is weeks ahead of us in dealing with the latest variant, Omicron, and demonstrates clearly that this version of Covid is much less deadly. 

On December 13, South Africa recorded 162,987 weekly confirmed cases, more than at any time during the pandemic.

And yet the number of deaths that resulted was nearly ten times lower than at the previous peak – 428, compared to 4,027 in January last year. 

The number of new infections there is now dropping precipitously, down 25 per cent in the past seven days. 

We must also remember that only about a quarter of the South African population has been fully vaccinated.

Allow me to make two bold predictions: this is the year we come out of Covid – and by the summer, the pandemic will be over, writes PROFESSOR KAROL SIKORA

 My confidence that the crisis is coming to a natural end is not based on empty optimism

In London, the Omicron hotbed of Britain, Covid absentees appear to be falling. And while cases continue to rise nationally, deaths remain reassuringly low.

In fact, the number of people dying with the virus is down 70 per cent, with 42 deaths reported in Britain yesterday compared to 143 on December 27.

What we are seeing is a common phenomenon in biology. The virus is evolving, not to become more lethal (as it might in a sci-fi horror movie) but to adapt to its human host.

Covid is a parasite. It needs to spread between bigger organisms, and those organisms are us. 

In London, the Omicron hotbed of Britain, Covid absentees appear to be falling. And while cases continue to rise nationally, deaths remain reassuringly low 

An aggressive parasite that decimates its host is a parasite that soon cannot find new bodies to infect. By evolving to become milder, it achieves environmental stability.

This is a pattern that has occurred numerous times throughout human history: it is how we acquired the common cold which constantly reinfects our population, for example.

It would be a disaster if we impeded that evolution by insisting on rigid lockdowns and border controls that keep the virus percolating within small geographical areas. 

From time to time, it would break out, creating one new wave after another.

That is not to say that we must always act cavalier about the threat Covid poses. 

Many hospitals are having to provide a ‘limited service’ due to ongoing staff shortages, and various Covid outbreaks will continue to emerge in the future, especially in areas where infection rates are high.

But the greatest danger to our recovery is the continued imposition of needless restrictions. 

We will not emerge from this two-year ordeal through mandatory isolation, closed borders or zero-Covid policies that see millions of symptomless people tested for an infection they don’t even suspect they have.

If we don’t find ways to live without constant fear of the virus, it will continue to make our lives a misery.

This is a new year. We need to look to the future – and put the pandemic behind us

We might even make it worse, and we will certainly endanger the health of hundreds of thousands of people with other, serious conditions such as cancer.

Fear is our worst enemy now. We have worked ourselves into a state of collective hysteria. 

The result is that we appear prepared to allow the economy to crumble, essential freedoms to falter, hospital wards to close and waiting lists to soar, rather than risk catching a mild infection.

We have to overcome this fear. It puts us at risk, both individually and as a society. 

As long as the NHS is using Covid as an excuse for deep-rooted failings, we will never be able to address the underlying need for a better-run service.

And as long as scientific statistics and graphs dominate the headlines, all sorts of abuses and crimes will be pushed off the front page, or go completely unreported.

This is a new year. We need to look to the future – and put the pandemic behind us. 

Professor Karol Sikora is a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham Medical School.

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