What is the one thing we’ve learned in the past two years since COVID-19?

Tragically, Nothing. And, that’s the truth.

Today, the United States lifted all statewide mask mandates joining England and various other countries around the world. This has caused wide spread concern across the scientific community about what to expect in 2022.

The Biden administration and members of Congress are pointing fingers at one another over the stalling out of more than $15 billion in pandemic funds that are needed to continue combating COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world. It may need to cancel new orders of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines as soon as next week and wind down access to testing soon after that, as there appears to be no clear strategy from either the White House or Capitol Hill to secure the funds.

It’s almost as if when every variant passes through, the mentality of every government is to go back to “normal” as if COVID-19 never existed. But, what is “normal”? And, are we really kidding ourselves to think a pandemic as the size and scale of COVID-19 is just going to magically go away? After 2 years, we’ve witnessed lethal outbreaks around the world of the original strains of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron. And, now we’ve even seen outbreaks of Omicron sublineages BA.1 and BA.2.

We’ve become masters of damage control: where we only tend to react when a variant has already been exposed into a community and has caused significant wide spread damage.

But, what if we could learn from our past experiences? Wouldn’t it be better to trust the science?

Leading UK scientists have warned that a future variant of COVID-19 could be significantly more dangerous than Omicron and could result in significantly higher numbers of deaths and cases of serious illness.

As a result, many of them believe that caution should be exercised as all final COVID restrictions in England have been lifted and have now caused a new record rise in BA.2 infections this week.

Analysis by ZOE & Kings College London: March 25, 2022 Data

At the same time, pressure is mounting on Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the government’s most senior advisers on COVID, in order to reveal what evidence there was to support the decision to lift all pandemic restrictions.

Prof Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Epidemiology warned of the dangers of accepting the widely held belief that COVID-19 variants would continue to become less harmful over time.

The Omicron variant was not derived from the Delta variant. It had originated in a completely different branch of the virus’s evolutionary tree. Furthermore, because we do not know where in the virus’s family tree a new variant will originate, we are unable to predict how pathogenic it may prove to be. It could be less pathogenic, but there is no scientific reason for it not to be more pathogenic.

Prof Lawrence Young of Warwick University, a virologist, backed up Prof Woolhouse’s research. “People appear to believe that the virus has progressed in a linear fashion from Alpha to Beta to Delta to Omicron. However, this is simply not the case. It is incorrect to believe that virus variants will continue to become milder. A new variant of the virus could be even more pathogenic than the Delta variant.”

“There will be more variants after Omicron, and if they are more transmissible, they will dominate,” David Nabarro, a special envoy on COVID-19 for the World Health Organization, said. “Furthermore, they may result in different patterns of illness, they may be more lethal or have more long-term consequences.”

After all this does make sense. Delta was the most lethal variant but it was the fourth variant mutation. The virus’s evolutionary tree that eventually became Omicron is the fifth variant mutation but it originated from a completely different branch of the virus.

In response to the warnings, charities and teachers have called on England’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser to provide a public explanation of the plan, to lift all Covid restrictions – including the requirement to isolate after testing positive – in England.

People with blood cancer are now accounting for a higher proportion of COVID deaths than they have at any other point in the pandemic, according to new figures. Between October and December 2021, 458 people with blood cancer in England and Wales died of COVID, according to an analysis by the Office for National Statistics. This represents one in every twenty people who died of COVID during that time period. People who have blood cancer have weakened immune systems and are therefore less likely to be protected by vaccines than the general population.

In a statement, Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said, “The absence of any coordinated plan to support the immunocompromised suggests that they have not played a prominent role in the government’s decision to lift the remaining Covid restrictions. We recognize that we will not be able to maintain restrictions indefinitely, but given the potential negative impact on immunocompromised people, it is critical that the government’s advisers outline the scientific basis for their recommendations.”

The policy director of Kidney Care UK, Fiona Loud, urged the government to demonstrate its commitment to the nation’s 500,000 immunosuppressed people by sharing their plans and the evidence that underpins their decision-making: “Abandoning all measures without preventive treatments, free testing, and a duty not to expose immunosuppressed people to COVID-19 risks making us second-class citizens unnecessarily.”

“It would be much more reassuring, and it would also be much easier to explain if there was a narrative rooted in science rather than a narrative rooted in libertarian aspiration.”

In some circles, immunocompromised people are thought to be very old and very sick, with little regard for the fact that they are immunocompromised. Even if you are old and sick, your existence is still significant. “All this means is that we’re being shut out.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to follow the same guidelines as the general public, but they should consider taking additional precautions to reduce their chances of contracting Covid-19. Vaccines are the most effective method of protecting ourselves against the virus.”

So while most of the world lifts all COVID-19 safety measures, scientists around the world still warn the global community that somewhere out there, a Rho, a Tau, or maybe even an Omega is already in the works. And, how it affects immunocompromised and non-immunocompromised individuals is still left to be undetermined as it will ultimately depend on what branch of the virus’s evolutionary tree the next variant originates from.

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