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Omicron: could this be the beginning of the end?

Dr Ross Walker
6 December 2021

If anyone said the word coronavirus to you in 2019, the vast majority of us would have stared blankly at that person having not heard of this particular type of virus.

Now terms like coronavirus and COVID-19 are amongst the most commonly used around the world, along with masks, social distancing and to a lesser extent handwashing.

But, coronaviruses have been around for years and still, the most common coronaviruses are the weak coronaviruses that lead to a third of the common cold.

Coronaviruses first made major headlines in early 2003 when a condition known as SARS emerged with an initial outbreak in China. This condition had about a 10% mortality rate but fizzled out rather quickly with no real cases being reported since 2004.

The coronavirus then reared its very ugly head again in 2012 with the emergence of MERS. 27 countries were affected with a 30% mortality rate. Again, this devastating condition fizzled out rather quickly. 

The initial Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV2 demonstrated about a 3% mortality rate. The current Delta strain has about a 0.5% mortality rate but that is on the background of a very extensive worldwide vaccination program.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the emergence of the Omicron strain, emanating from South Africa. To this point, there have been no reported deaths and minimal serious illnesses from this condition. Basically, the vast majority of people who contract Omicron are either asymptomatic or develop fatigue, aches and pains with a scratchy throat for a few days. You guessed it, we call this a common cold or a minor respiratory virus.

The Delta strain is still causing 99% of the COVID infections seen around the world at present but the next few weeks will allow us to track what is happening with Omicron. There are many questions to be asked but let's hope that what we are seeing is the coronavirus mutating to become an endemic cold virus just like we are already seeing with a third of the common cold.

If this is the case, we may be seeing the end of the pandemic and hopefully, our lives returning to some degree of normalcy with many more freedoms, especially travel to places of our choosing and the definite end to these extremely traumatic lockdowns.


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