Umair Haque wrote . . . . . . . . .
Uh oh. It’s ba-a-ack. Covid’s surging again, around the globe. In Hong Kong, the line is almost vertical — and this time, we’re talking about deaths. Britain, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, China, South Korea, the Netherlands, — all countries where Covid’s spiking, yet again. Finland has 85% more cases than last week. Austria has more cases now than at any point in the pandemic.
The WHO says all this is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
What happened here?
Let me try to say it politely. If you thought Covid was over, you’re an idiot. Sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but people who bought this foolish notion, that “Covid is over,” need to get real, or we’ll be trapped in this Covid cycle for the foreseeable future. Let me explain the sad story of how we got here.
As the Omicron surge faded, on the one side, there were politicians, pundits, and public officials, who all converged on a certain story. A narrative. Covid was “evolving to become the flu.” And since Omicron was relatively mild, as soon its surge began to wane, “Covid was over.” This narrative spread across the West, especially — and soon enough, it was on the lips of Prime Ministers and pundits and Heads of Public Health Agencies. We were going to “live with Covid,” because now “the pandemic was ending.”
Life was going to go back to “normal” again.
Let’s take a few examples. The head of America’s CDC proclaimed, “I do anticipate that this is probably going to be a seasonal virus.” The head of the CDC’s Preparedness Center said he hopes this is “the last real large surge from SARS-CoV-2.” Top advisors to Biden urged him to “learn to live with the virus.” Advisors to PM Boris Johnson said Omicron was a “ray of light” towards Covid becoming like the common cold.
What happened as a result? Country after country dropped Covid precautions. All of them.
But they didn’t just drop distancing and mask mandates. Many countries, like the UK, dropped testing and surveillance of Covid too. So now, not only were people more likely to get it, governments can’t even track the spread.
At exactly the same time that a new variant was emerging. A “subvariant,” as the lingo goes at this point — Omcrion BA2, which is kind of like Turbo Omicron, because it’s 80% more infectious than Omicron, which itself was hyper infectious compared to Delta and Alpha. It’s almost as contagious as measles, and measles is the most contagious disease we know of.
On the other side, there were doctors and scientists. The good ones — not the few who parroted the line which is politically palatable. They warned, in unison, that lifting all precautions just as a new variant was emerging was going to be disastrous. It was idiotic. Anyone with a working knowledge of high school biology could, they warned, predict what was going to happen next. Covid would surge, all over again, fast.
Who was right? The pundits and politicians — or the scientists and experts? You probably don’t need me to tell you, unless, of course, again, you’re an idiot.
On Feb 17 2022, Denmark became the first country to drop all its Covid restrictions. All of them. No masks. No distancing. Nothing. Astonishingly, this policy was backed by the State Serum Institute, its public agency which was monitoring and evaluating the pandemic. What do you do when your government is making decisions like that? Never mind. What happened next? Deaths and hospitalisations exploded. The line surged vertically. And now? “About 1½ times more Danes are now hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before during the pandemic.”
The next example’s so obvious to see it’s actually funny. Britain dropped Covid precautions on Feb 24th. Like Denmark, all of them. Masks, distancing, all of it. On Feb 27th, its Covid cases hit an inflection point — and began to surge, all over again. Just three days later.
There are three kinds of people when it comes to Covid. The idiots of the right wing we know all too well — they won’t take vaccines and deny science. The idiots of the center, though, are the ones who will debate the points above as if such basic realities need fine-grained statistical modelling replete with differential equations and multivariate analysis to explain them. They don’t. Any good doctor or scientist will tell you the same thing. It looks simple because it is simple.
Cases, hospitalizations, deaths literally exploding just days after countries lifted all Covid precautions? Just as a new variant emerging was emerging? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened here. It takes an idiot to deny it.
I use the word idiot in the classical Greek sense. For them, there was no figure lower than the idiot — the self-centred one, the narcissist, the selfish kind of person. The idiot was someone without virtue. Only private interests mattered to them — gain, profit, comfort, and so on. Greek life was built on virtue, and for the Greeks, nobody was more dangerous than the idiot, because they couldn’t contribute to the common good, and without the common good, there was no democracy or civilization.
Whom would the Greeks call idiots today? People who think wearing a mask is some kind of existential attack on their “freedom,” not a net gain of it, increasing public health for all. Freedom? That’s what the Ukrainians are fighting for. Wearing a mask is just common sense, because, yes, the science says it works. Or maybe people who want to believe the pandemic’s over, so life can “get back to normal” — having completely lost sight of the virtues of wisdom, compassion, fairness, and truth.
Remember the two sides? The Covid-is-over side, and the…science side? Who was right? It should be obvious by now. Remember the country that saw Covid cases explode all over again in a classic inflection point just three days after it lifted all precautions? LOL. You couldn’t have a more obvious examples of what’s true.
Covid was not over — just as the scientists and doctors said. Removing all precautions did indeed lead to disastrous outcomes. And yet, even now, the idiots of both sides, left and right will deny it. The right never wanted to fight Covid. But the centre and left gave up on it without much of a fight. Yes, really.
Let me put that in perspective for you. We’re two years into a global pandemic. Just two. And of those two years, we’ve only had fully working measures against the virus for one. Vaccines and masks and distancing. We’ve had just one year of really fighting the virus — and even that’s at the cost of hesitance and infighting and skepticism from, shockingly, even institutions like public health agencies. We have really only fought the virus for one year.
This is a global pandemic. One year of fighting it is not going to be enough. Especially knowing what we know now. Our vaccines fade in efficacy, fast. So do boosters — lasting maybe ten weeks or so, before they begin to lose potency. That leaves us with basic precautions like masking and social distancing.
If we don’t follow those precautions, then Covid will keep recurring. And no, it won’t be “the flu.” Covid is evolving, and will continue to evolve. There’s every chance — let me beat an old drum for a moment — that tomorrow’s variants will be deadlier. How deadly? We don’t know, but Covid could easily recombine with SARS or MERS and then we have a virus with Omicron’s infectiousness, but a mortality rate between 15 and 40%. (By the way, when I say that, I get piled on, harassed, and called names. So don’t take it from me. Listen to Dr. William Haseltine of Harvard Med, saying exactly that.)
And we are making that path of evolution — the deadly one — more likely right now. Why?
Well, think about what the policies of the last few months really did. They said to old people, young people, kids, the immunocompromised — “You’re on your own. Good luck! It’s your problem now. The rest of us” — meaning healthy working age people, basically — “are going to get back to ‘normal’. Covid’s over!! Ha-ha!!”
So we left all these groups at the mercy of the virus. That’s not just morally bankrupt, because of course the test of a civilized society is how it cares for its most vulnerable, and in this case, we just left them to die.
It’s scientifically incredibly dangerous, stupid, and reckless. Because it’s in immunocompromised bodies that Covid mutates out of control, and new variants emerge through recombination. It’s an immunocompromised person, for example, that variants can co-infect, and recombine, because they will stay sick for a long time. Now imagine an elderly one. Now imagine a world of them, just being left for dead.
We are giving Covid a perfect opportunity to become something worse. We’re handing it our world and civilisation on a silver platter — and daring it to feast. What do we do if Covid does recombine with SARS or MERS? Then we die. Or at least many of us do. No, that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. It is reality. Remember how bad Delta was? Even if we have some degree of immune protection now, it’s not going to make us invulnerable to worse strains of Covid, which will invariably kill and hospitalise scores of people. Yes, really.
That is already what’s happening all over again.
This wave hasn’t hit America yet. That is because waves always tend to hit America last. But when it does? It’s not going to be pretty. Less than half of Americans are boosted — and that’s a lower number than in plenty of countries where Covid’s surging all over again. The first two vaccines don’t give you as much protection against Omicron, especially BA2, as against the first variants — that is what waning efficacy means. America will be hit hard by this variant, yet again. And that was all eminently predictable. It’s incredible, given all that, that the CDC let this happen.
We are in the middle of a titanic, historic set of government failures. Truly incredible ones. How is it that Denmark’s public health agencies let this happen? America’s CDC? The list goes on and on. How is it even possible that the people tasked with protecting public health, safeguarding it, paid serious and significant sums to do it…don’t…by denying science and ignoring evidence…and instead cherry-picking facts and nitpicking over details?
We all know the answer to that. Because it’s what’s politically palatable. It’s what Presidents and Prime Ministers want. It’s what a certain segment of the population wants. They don’t care if grandma dies — they just want to go the gym in peace. Hey, no pain, no gain, amirite?! They don’t appear to know how to use the minds they appear not to have.
Our entire governments are pandering to this segment of people. Our entire governments. Public health agencies, governors, heads of state. They are letting them dictate terms, and ignoring the science, hoping that there won’t be political fallout. There’s just one tiny problem. These people are goddamned idiots.
Remember when I said the Greeks said idiots were people who weren’t concerned with virtue, because they were selfish and short-sighted and greedy? What virtue is all this centrally about?
Truth. It was true what the science said. Lifting precautions after just one year of really fighting a global pandemic — and just two years into it — was far too soon. Far too soon. Science predicted yet another wave — and here we are. It was true before it happened, because of course science gives us the power to know. And it’s true now.
But truth these days doesn’t seem to matter. The very centrists who attack the right for falling for Trump’s or Putin’s or whomever demagogues Big Lies…are the very ones…to believe in their own Big Lies. Especially about public health. The pandemic’s ending! Covid’s over! Life, go back to ‘normal’! Yay!! Never mind if it leaves literally every group in society other than healthy working age people abandoned, forgotten, and at profound, severe risk. A risk that then comes back to hit even those idiots who denied it, new variants emerging into a forever pandemic.
The only word people like this is idiots. Yes, we live in an age where truth is a contemptible thing, mocked and hated and scorned. But this? This will take history’s breath away. These people just…let a pandemic…go on and on? When they had vaccines, which they didn’t share with the world? And then they stopped wearing masks and distancing, even as those vaccines waned? While new variants were emerging? Leaving the old, young, ill, and sick to…just…get infected…and die…even if that was the surest way to produce even worse variants?
Whew. History will whistle, the way one is tempted to do, when confronted with idiocy of such staggering proportions that there’s nothing left to say, because words can’t possibly do justice to it. All that’s left it to shake your head in pity at the unutterable stupidity of it, make a sound like a cry, a mewl, and wonder.
What happens to make people into such hardened, relentless, mercilessly self-destructive idiots? What do you even do with them, except wave goodbye, as you watch them walk off the nearest cliff, telling you they’re going to fly?