clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why the omicron variant might change how the pandemic ends

Experts are worried omicron might be a sign that the pandemic isn’t over. Another theory suggests something different

People pass through Waterloo train station.
People pass through Waterloo train station, in London, during the morning rush hour on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. The omicron variant of the coronavirus might be a sign that the coronavirus pandemic has reached a new, safer stage than before, experts told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Matt Dunham, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus might be a sign that the coronavirus pandemic has reached a new, safer stage than before, experts told The Sydney Morning Herald.

What is the omicron variant?

Over the weekend, the World Health Organization warned of a new COVID-19 variant of concern, naming it after the Greek alphabet letter name of “omicron,” as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • Reports of omicron cases began during the holiday break. There have been case reports across Europe, North America and Africa.
  • The variant — which has the scientific name B.1.1.529 — has at least 30 mutations in the spike protein and 10 mutations in the ACE2 receptor, which allows the virus to potentially evade vaccines, as per the Deseret News.

Omicron variant and the COVID-19 pandemic

Multiple experts told The Sydney Morning Herald that there’s too little data on the omicron variant to make any definite statements about its contagiousness, transmissibility and danger.

But experts said that this mutation could be less virulent and cause less severe outcomes, which could be a signal of what’s to come in the pandemic.

Could omicron signal the future?

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, experts have been waiting for a coronavirus variant that is more infectious but less virulent, meaning it might spread far and fast, but lead to less severe outcomes.

  • “The theory is that, if a less virulent strain becomes dominant, more people will become infected but fewer will be critically sick,” per The Sydney Morning Herald. “The virus, while still a problem, also becomes part of the solution; every person who recovers from a mild case is left with greater immunity against future infections than any of the current vaccines provide.”

This would be a sign that future COVID-19 outbreaks could put less pressure on health care and hospital systems, essentially changing the world into one where we have to live with the virus.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said this is why hospitalizations and death are the true measures of omicron’s spread, per The Sydney Morning Herald.

  • “The measure of success is not case numbers,” Perrottet said. “The measure of success is keeping people out of hospital, keeping people safe and at the same time, opening up the economy to keep people in work and keep businesses open.”