This virus is so very enigmatic in all its properties. But, to me, the most enigmatic feature of all has always been how its level of activity peaks and falls, for no obvious reason whatsoever. This is nowhere more astonishing than at present with the Omicron variant.
We’ve been told by any expert who can beg his way onto a talk show that everyone in the entire country and world will get the Omicron variant, possibly even including everyone who has had a former infection, and possibly including everyone who has been vaxxed, no matter how many times they’ve had drugs injected into them.
On the face of it, that’s a realistic projection. The virus in its Omicron form is extremely infectious, and we’ve already been seeing an astonishing rate of growth in new cases – first in South Africa, then in the UK and on into other European countries, and now in the US and Canada too.
But, something happened. South Africa’s cases peaked three weeks ago. The UK’s cases might have peaked in the middle of the last week. While icase numbers are maybe still growing in the US (as always, we have what seems to be the worst case reporting of any country in the world) the rate of growth has been apparently dropping back after peaking on Monday, almost a week ago. Canada’s cases have started falling, just a day or two ago. And so on. The experts have even come up with a name for this sudden reversal – an “ice pick” shape on the new case graph – goes up very suddenly and steeply, then plunges down again, just as suddenly and steeply.
What is causing the virus, just when it has got a good hold on a population, to suddenly let go? None of the obvious answers apply.
Herd immunity : South Africa only has 0.5% of its population with a previous recorded Covid case. The UK has 21% and the US has 18%. You’d need something like 85% or more to get herd immunity against the Omicron variant, and furthermore, herd immunity slowly comes into effect, not suddenly as has been the case in all these countries.
Vaccines : There’s been very little difference between the number of people vaccinated a few weeks ago in all these countries and the number vaccinated now. Besides which, the vaccines are known to have very little effect on Omicron infections (saving their benefit for the “keeps you out of hospital” concept). There’s no material change in vaccine numbers or types or anything to suddenly stop Omicron in its tracks.
Social behavior : England in particular has chosen to almost not respond to the Omicron variant at all. I was looking at some YouTube video earlier today showing crowds of people in London, and almost no-one has a mask on. There doesn’t seem to be a huge change here in the US, either.
Testing limitations : Maybe the lack of freely available tests might limit the number of cases currently being reported, but it wouldn’t cause the numbers being reported to plunge down, in all the countries mentioned (and others not mentioned). It would mean numbers soar up to a certain number then stay at that number until more testing comes available, then start growing again.
Weather : First, keep in mind that South Africa is in the southern hemisphere’s summer, and we’re in a northern hemisphere’s winter. But, no matter what the season is, there’s not been any sudden change in temperatures or other weather conditions, in all these countries. There seems no correlation between weather and virus numbers.
And now for the biggest puzzle of all. Why are our “experts” simultaneously not explaining the reasons for this drop to us, and also not expressing the same astonishment I am and rushing to find out? I know why they’re not explaining the reasons – they have no idea. They are now publicly admitting that case numbers have plunged in other countries and might plunge in the US too, without raising the issue of any reason for this astonishing turn around. Why aren’t they now rushing to find out?
Because, and I’ve said this before, if we could understand what causes the virus to shut down then turn on again, we could work at encouraging the shut downs and discouraging the turn ons. There is something huge happening in the background that we completely don’t understand. We need to understand this.
There is some more good news about Omicron, too. The perception of how dangerous it is compared to other forms of Covid continues to be refined, and now some people are suggesting it might be as much as 100 times less deadly than Delta. That brings it down to such trivial levels as to mean that we could start living our lives 100% normally. It would be massively less deadly than the ‘flu, and we’ve never adjusted our behavior for the seasonal ‘flu each year.
But don’t start thinking that this unexpected twist means we’re in the final months/weeks/days of the Covid pandemic. There’s the new variant in France, about which very little is known, and just now, a new variant has been found in Cyprus – it is described as combining elements of both Omicron and Delta. What I want to know is whether that means it is as infectious as Omicron and as deadly as Delta (that would be a terrible scenario) or is it as infectious as Delta and as weak as Omicron (that would be even better still). Most of all, about the future, if we don’t know what caused Omicron to suddenly pull back, we don’t know if it will change its mind again and suddenly press on again.
Aruba climbed two ranks in the minor country list. It seems the US dropped a place in the major country list, but that’s mainly because it is slow reporting weekend case numbers. On the other hand, France, which pushed ahead of the US, did have over twice as many new cases last week as the US.
Perhaps in compensation, in the Death table, the US rose one place.
All numbers are very high in the new case activity table.
In Europe, Romania had the worst growth in cases – up 289% from last week. Serbia was only slightly behind, at 285%. North Macedonia, Albania, Austria, Slovenia and Bulgaria all had more than 100% growths in cases over the last week, too. Countries with dropping cases included Russia (never sure if it should be considered European or not) with a 23% drop, the same as Malta. Spain had a 15% drop, and Slovakia squeezed out a tiny 3% drop. The UK rose 5%, Germany rose 62%, Italy 63% and France 64%. Europe as a whole rose 33%.
South Africa’s case numbers continue to fall. It had a 9% drop, registering a mere 887 new cases per million people for the week. Africa as a whole had a 6% rise in cases.
In North America, Canada has now turned around and had a 9% drop. Mexico had a strong 223% rise, and the US – well, that’s anyone’s guess, but probably about a 40% rise.
The world as a whole rose 48%.
Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (306,516)||Andorra (340,955)|
|2||Montenegro (275,653)||Montenegro (302,902)|
|3||Gibraltar (261,937)||Gibraltar (293,711)|
|5||San Marino||San Marino|
|10||St Barth (190,990)||Lithuania (203,532)|
Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (231,108)||Czech Republic (235,413)|
|2||UK (193,438)||UK (211,537)|
|3||Netherlands (184,145)||Netherlands (194,453)|
|4||Belgium (180,477)||Belgium (191,292)|
|5||USA (168,131)||France (184,923)|
|6||France||USA (183,446 – or much more)|
|12||Turkey (111,465)||Italy (123,278)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Peru (6,023)||Peru (6,030)|
|2||Czech Republic (3,373)||Czech Republic (3,407)|
|3||Romania (3,087)||Romania (3,099)|
|4||Brazil (2,882)||Brazil (2,886)|
|6||Argentina (2,558)||USA (2,573)|
|7||USA (2,538)||Argentina (2,564)|
|8||Colombia (2,515)||Colombia (2,521)|
|10||Mexico (2,287)||Italy (2,305)|
Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Denmark 19,775||Ireland 29,710|
|2||Ireland 19,144||France 28,413|
|10||USA 8,500 (est)||Argentina 13,440|
|11||Canada 6,813||Switzerland 13,282|
|12||Croatia 6,810||USA 11,000+|
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Items below include an “outside the box” (but inside the car, sort of) solution to how to safely travel with an infected passenger, NY Covid case counts are massively overstated, a meaningless statement from Johnson & Johnson, and a look at some not very useful death rate statistics.
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