It's only fair to share…

One of the great movies of all time, in my opinion, is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray as a weatherman trapped in the same day. Every event and interaction he has is identical and he remembers that whilst everyone else is living it as if it was the first time.

There are many classic scenes but one in particular ( starts at 2:24) is where he faces the camera and says, “Well its Groundhog Day… again”.  I was reminded of this when a meme on social media had the screen shot of Bill Murray and the words “Well its new variant day…again”.

There are already multiple variants of Covid and given the nature of viruses there will be more and on a regular basis as it becomes an endemic virus worldwide. Variants tend to be more transmissible but less serious.

It was interesting to note three things about Omicrom. Firstly, that the next ancient Greek alphabet letter in line was “Xi” but the WHO declined to use this letter. You can draw your own conclusions as to why this is. Secondly the South African Government immediately notified the world of the discovery of the latest strain.  Thirdly, whilst the initial response has been the standard knee jerk of border closures and mask mandates, there are encouraging early signs that maybe we are slipping out of Groundhog Day and finally learning that it is no longer March 2020.

Let’s look at the second one.

The response of the South Africans is to be applauded. It is in stark contrast to the action of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2019. For those looking for a book to read over the Christmas break, I would strongly recommend Shari Markson’s “What Really Happened in Wuhan”. There was also a TV special, and a podcast series has started.

What will historians, in decades to come, make of the pandemic response?

As the quest to get to the bottom of the origins of Covid 19 continues it is disturbing to note that the organisers and some signatories of a letter to the Lancet in 2020 claiming that a lab leak was a conspiracy theory, had research and financial ties to the Wuhan Lab. Surely this should have been disclosed.

What is even worse is that concurrently, scientists seeking to have papers published which supported a lab leak theory found continual rejection from journals. This is despite the work being done independently and based on actual laboratory research.

Thus, an environment was created where those seeking facts were labelled conspiracy theorists and those covering up for their paymasters were lauded as consensus scientists. Anthony Fauci is on the public record defending gain of function research on the basis of the risks of a pandemic being small.  Under President Obama, funding for this research was ceased, but somehow Dr Fauci managed to reinstate it.

The facts are now slowly emerging and in due course people will hopefully be held to account.

It is encouraging to see that even in parts of Australia where the myth of Covid eradication has endured the response to Omicron is pivoting. South Australia declined to reflexively shut its borders. Reported in The Australian, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria would not pursue “Omicron zero” and that the heightened infectiousness of the new variant meant that it was unlikely the state could keep it out forever.

“That just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was also quoted in The Australian saying he and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had agreed that the reopening plan could not change after every “bump in the road”.

He added “The mental health and economic impacts of continually opening and closing borders is very significant and our Victorian colleagues feel as strongly about this as we do. We won’t be altering our roadmap every time there is a bump in the road, and I think Mr Andrews and I are in agreement on that approach.”

At long last we are seeing green shoots of some balance and proportion. Mental health matters, as does cancer treatment, heart disease and other medical conditions. So too does having a job, earning a living and of course, being able to see family and friends.

As humans we share this planet with a massive number of other living entities including viruses which can infect us. Some such, as colds are mild and others such as Ebola are lethal. Covid 19 is mild in 99.7% of cases and the percentage is higher in those under age 80. The average age of death from Covid is 84 which is the average life expectancy in Australia.

The virus is endemic and there is no option but to live with it. The way we do this needs to be proportionate to the risk. In most Western countries, anyone who wants to be vaccinated can have been already. It is important that assistance is provided to developing nations so they can reach this point as soon as practically possible.

We know how to live with influenza and a host of other viruses. Protect the vulnerable as best possible, take sensible precautions and stay away from others if unwell. This needs to be the approach going forward. We don’t close borders or mask up every winter.

2021 has been difficult for many and it is to be hoped that the new year brings a return to actual normal and not some confected “new normal”.

Thank you to readers for your support. Best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2022.