Roll on 2022

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No fireworks, perhaps, but 2022 should bring a change

I expect there will be many of us who will be glad to see the back of 2021, just as many of us were equally glad to see the back of 2020, thinking, then, that in a few months our restricted lives would be a thing of the past and we would be free again to once more go to work, to a restaurant or pub, to go on holiday.

How wrong we were. But as the new year moved on and the restrictions that had bound us were removed one by one we began to have hope that this time it really was over and the prime minister’s promise that restriction removal was “irreversible” boosted that hope. Indeed, when the day came that I was able to walk into one of my favourite Rye pubs (the Waterworks, since you ask), sit on a stool at the bar without a mask, give my order to one of the bar staff without having to talk through a Perspex screen and talk to friends on either side of me without having to yell across a two metre gap, it felt as if normality (and sanity) had finally returned.

But here we are again. “Irreversible” has turned out to be just another politician’s promise.  Christmas has been thrown into doubt and the new year has been thrown into even greater doubt.

However, how worried should we really be? And while one can never foretell the future, what is the likelihood that 2022 will just be another repeat of the previous two years?

Well, it would seem that there is some positive news: first, the vaccine program has been more successful than I believe even the government had dared hope, and the booster program appears now to be going every bit as well. We know that between them, these vaccines are highly effective against all known strains of Covid-19.

Second, we have the current figures. At the time of writing this, the number of deaths with a positive Covid-Omicron test within the previous 28 days is just 14, and the Covid occupancy rate in ICU is going down. Hospitalisations, generally, are increasing slightly, but not in proportion to the number of new cases. We do not know, however, the number of deaths, ICU cases or hospitalisations that are due specifically to Covid Omicron. The UK is following the instruction from the World Health Organisation to record all deaths as Covid related if there has been a positive test within the previous 28 days, regardless of the actual direct cause, so it is possible – even probable – that only a minority of current hospital cases are actually a result of Covid.

Infections though, are rising and, we are told, are doubling every two to three days. Yet the BBC, usually only too eager to impart the worst news, stated at the weekend that cases had increased by 60% in the previous week. Now I am no mathematician, but if doubling every two to three days was really the case, then the increase would have been at least 400% over that period. When quizzed about this anomaly, a SAGE spokesman said that there were probably “hundreds of thousands of cases” they did not know about. And the evidence of this is? There is no evidence, it has just been assumed as a “worst case scenario”.

What we do know is that the Omicron variant is, except in a very small minority of cases, very mild and that some 40% of those tested positive to date have not even been aware that they have the virus. The South African experience shows that it peaks quickly and then starts to subside and with the level of vaccinations and boosters being far higher here than in South Africa, there seems evidence to suggest that the reduction in cases will be even more marked.

So there is reason for hope and to be optimistic that, after two years of jumping through the hoops of restrictions and lockdown, and despite what may still be inflicted upon us over the next few weeks, the coming year will be brighter and better, and normality of a sort, will return with all the usual sights, sounds and events of Rye up and running once more. The first two years of the second decade of this century will just go down in history as the time of the “Great Virus” and provide stories of lockdown to amuse our grandchildren in years to come.

On a final note of black comedy, I really do think that the government warning on TV over the last week telling us to get boosted or else… should only be shown after the 9pm watershed. With his sombre funereal tones and unblinking, bulging eyes, Chris Witty is the personification of an Orwellian character from 1984 crossed with an alien from Star Trek, (“It’s human, Captain, but not as we know it”). Who on earth thought this would be good PR for boosters, I cannot imagine.

So let’s look forward with optimism, and, in the meantime, a happy Christmas and a happy, free and joyous 2022 to all.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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