The Omicron variant may be what we need to learn to live with Covid, especially if it turns out to be much milder than Delta, as it appears, and overtakes it. That would signal the actual end of the pandemic and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 into an endemic, far less dangerous pathogen. Even if Omicron proves highly virulent, our fear of the unknown is gradually being worn down.
Scientists are at work on the critical questions about Omicron: How contagious? How severe? Can you get it if you were already sick with another variant? Do existing vaccines still work? The South African Medical Research Council reports that among several hospitals in Gauteng province, few patients who tested positive for Covid developed pneumonia or needed supplemental oxygen or intensive care. Many were hospitalized primarily for other diseases. The province has seen a significant rise in new Covid infections in the past four weeks, which has been attributed to the new variant. The first cases of Omicron were detected in the province’s Tshwane district (which includes Pretoria).