Why the Pandemic Won’t End


umair haque

Image Credit: Nature

Ah, the halcyon days of…ten days ago. It was just a week or two ago — literally — that American media was peppered with hot takes from pundits about the pandemic coming to an end. Here’s one, here’s another, and here’s yet another, this time from CNN Juliette Kayyem.

What were these idiots smoking?

Here we are — crippled by yet another devastating wave of Covid, that’s spread at light speed around the globe. So what’s the deal? Why do we keep getting it so wrong? So wrong that pundits proclaim the “end of the pandemic” literally days before yet another wave brings the world to its knees?

You’re not going to like this essay. You’re going to hate me for writing it. It’s going to scare the living daylights of you. And I’m going to be insulting, to top all that off. I’m going to refer to the average person — at least in the rich West — as a selfish, ignorant fool. Sorry about that. But do you want the truth about Covid, the stakes, the reality of what we face — or not?

Let’s begin.

If you’re groaning “when’s the pandemic going to endddd,” you need a reality check.

The pandemic’s not going to end. No, Covid isn’t going to magically go away. Hello, welcome to science 101. Covid is mutating faster than we are vaccinating and boosting people. Coronaviruses are masters of mutation, at that — a theme we’ll return to. Because Covid is mutating faster than we’re vaccinating, we’re losing the war against it. And that is not going to change anytime soon. Anytime soon means: ever, unless.

That means that we are now in a doom loop of Covid. Every winter is going to be like the last two. A new variant will bring the world to its knees, right on cue. Anybody that understood basic science — that apparently doesn’t include American pundits, even richly paid CNN contributors, who appear to be completely juvenile on this subject — grasped this. That is why, right on schedule, bang, as winter set in, Omicron arrived.

This is what every winter is going to be like. A new variant arrives right on schedule. Go down the Greek alphabet. When will it end? It will not end. This is the future.

We are in a Covid Doom Loop. No, those variants will not “get milder.” Don’t take it from me. Take it from William Hanage, of Harvard Medical School. “There is a widespread belief that infectious diseases evolve to become less virulent, leaving many hopeful that Omicron will be less severe for everyone, regardless of age or vaccination status. This is false. Viruses do not necessarily get selected to be milder or more severe.” Did you get that? The popular theory that pandemics grow milder is a myth.

So what’s likely to happen, instead? I’ll come to that.

First, let’s talk about the only — the only — way out of the Covid Doom Loop. Now this is important. Even if you think you’re an oh-so intelligent American liberal who is being responsible, believe me when I tell you that you don’t have the faintest inkling of what we’re dealing with.

So listen up.

We need to vaccinate and boost the world. Everyone in it. Fast. Faster than Covid mutates and spreads. That is the only way to stop the Covid Doom Loop. Period.

To do it, we also probably need to lock down the entire world for about a month, two week minimum, to stop Covid dead in its tracks. We need to spend a month where literally nobody does anything but gets boosted and vaccinated. Bang. That is how we end Covid.

The problem is that nobody is interested in the reality of what it’ll take to end Covid.

Our leaders are incompetent, and the average person is a selfish fool. The only leader of a rich country — the only one — who’s got an agenda to vaccinate the world is former PM Gordon Brown. He says: “A bold plan saved the world economy in 2009. With this new plan, we can control Covid…we must resolve that 2022 will be the year when we finally bring the virus fully under control.” If you’re a greedy American, you want to know how much it will “cost.” The answer? “The $23.4bn breaks down to just 10p a week to be paid by every citizen of the wealthier countries and would not only save next Christmas but be the best investment the world could ever make. Surely making the difference between life and death is worth more than the price of the cheapest biscuit?”

Want to enjoy Christmas ever again? Get interested in vaccinating the world, idiot. Or else stop whining — it’s your own fault, your indifference and negligence and stupidity ruining your holidays now and forever.

The problem, again, is that nobody’s interested. Nobody but me, Gordon Brown, and maybe you. That’s it. The average Western leader could care less. The average person? Totally indifferent. Brown’s brilliant article, outlining his agenda? It was one of the least read pieces last week in the Guardian. As a new wave of Covid hit. The article about a farting barrister got more reads than the only real plan in the world to end Covid. It’s funny, but it’s also incredibly sad.

But it’s about much, much more than Christmas, my friends. Saving the future of humanity, as I’m going to explain, costs literally pennies. Right now, anyways.

You need to understand what Covid is going to turn into. Don’t take it from me. I was shocked — but not surprised — to see someone finally say it out loud. I turned on CNN this morning, and there was Dr William Haseltine. He was a professor at Harvard Med for decades, and helped wipe out HIV and AIDS. He knows what he’s talking about.

I’m going to paraphrase. He said: “Your public officials don’t get it yet. They don’t understand the danger. Covid’s sister viruses? SARS has a mortality rate of 10%. MERS has a mortality rate of 40%. What we should be worried about is a strain of Covid that recombines with those.”

That would be the Doomsday Strain I’ve been talking about. Maybe you thought I was exaggerating. Or being an alarmist. So don’t take it from me. Take it from a professor at Harvard Med who helped wipe out HIV and AIDS. He’s concerned about exactly the same thing. Because Coronaviruses are masters of recombination, genes flowing back and forth, a strain that recombines Covid-19 with SARS and MERS isn’t just likely, at some point it’s inevitable.

Then we have a virus with an R of Omicron, which is incredibly infectious — but also with a severely high mortality rate. That’s a civilisation killer.

That is what this pandemic is really about. I’ve quoted you two experts here. Put their thoughts together. Dr Hanage says the popular theory that viruses evolve to become “milder” is a myth. Dr Haseltine is the first noted medical figure, so far as I can tell, to warn explicitly that Covid is on the way to becoming something far, far more dangerous, and that it’s only a matter of times before it does.

Chilled? You should be.

Let me put all that in plainer English.

There is a Covid Doomsday Clock that is now counting down. Every single case, every new wave, brings us closer to a strain of Covid that is something much more like a plague than we have ever seen for centuries. A virus that has MERS or SARS mortality rate, but Omicron’s R.

If you think that’s still hyperbole, then think about the science. Omicron is already a recombination of two different kinds of families of viruses. The rhinovirus — the cold virus — and Covid-19. That is a very, very bad sign. It tells us in no uncertain terms that Covid-19 is indeed a master of mutation and recombination. That it can acquire and swap genes incredibly “promiscuously.” Omicron is so infectious because it’s a recombination of Covid with the common cold. That is a clear warning: what happens with Covid recombines with something much worse?

We are on the way to a civilisation killing virus. You should be incredibly concerned about that, because the more I think about, the more worried I grow. Like I said, I was shocked to hear Dr Haseltine say out loud exactly what I’ve been thinking, to have my worst fears confirmed by a titan of the medical establishment, who also warned that we’re not taking this nearly seriously enough.

There is one way out. We need to vaccinate the world. We need to lock everything down for a month, stop the virus dead in its tracks, and do nothing but boost and vaccinate until everyone on planet earth is vaccinated.

If we don’t? The future looks like this. Every winter, there’s a new wave. A new variant. Covid recombines with something. This time, it’s something relatively innocuous, like the cold — which, overall, is still enough to bring the world to its knees yet again. But sooner or later, Covid will recombine with something truly deadly. A disease like SARS or MERS with a severely high mortality rate. Then we won’t have an “ordinary” wave. We will have a civilisation killer.

Everything will stop. Our economies will not be able to function. Societies will break down and collapse. At a 10 to 40% mortality rate, everything from factories to energy grids will simply shut down. Life as we know will come to an end.

I am not kidding about any of this.

Please go ahead and think it over for yourself.

I mean it. Think it over seriously. I have tried my best to educate you about all this over the last few weeks.

The average person right about now is acting like a clueless, selfish moron. “When will the pandemic ennddddd??!! I just want to go back to shopping and party-time!!”

We have to grow up now. We face an imminent threat to the future of humanity, and no, that’s not a joke. Remember what Drs Haseltine and Hanage said? This is not some kind of weird fantasy. It is, unfortunately, reality.

The Covid Doomsday Clock is ticking. It’s counting down, every day, to the strain which rips our civilisation apart, a plague that lasts a decade or more, and brings life as we know it to an end, just like the plague did. Plagues — remember, they’re a feature of Dark Ages. If this feels like one already, well…we need to grow up and prevent it from happening.

That part is about you. You need to get a clue. You need to understand that right about now, we can spend literally pennies, and stop Covid from becoming something out of our worst nightmares. All this? So far? This? Delta, Omicron, the waves we’ve experienced so far — they’re nothing compared to what’s on the horizon.

Be responsible. Understand it all. Think about it.

And back the effort for a global vaccination program, now. Demand it. Clamour for it. Getting tested and boosted yourself? Nice, but it’s the least you can do. We need to stop Covid before it turns into what our society’s wisest minds are suddenly understanding is before us now.

This wave isn’t just about Omicron. It’s not just about your Christmas. It’s about something much, much bigger, that I think there is now a slow but dawning and horrified recognition of.

The Covid Doomsday Clock is ticking. And our chances to stop it are running out, with every new case and wave. Listen to Gordon Brown. Listen to Dr Haseltine and Hanage. Understand our warnings and our missions. Remember how all those idiot pundits who predicted the “end of the pandemic” just two weeks ago got it so, so badly wrong?

We are not kidding around, and you need to grow up, and begin understanding what we are really dealing with here. A civilisation killer.

December 2021

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