By Sushil Kutty
And while we looked the other way…the coronavirus returned. But when did it ever go away? It didn’t go into hiding. It only changed faces. Now it’s the Omicron BA.2 variant. The original Omicron was BA.1. China and Hong Kong have a case of the worst kind of BA.1, laying to waste Hong Kong’s ‘zero covid’ policy and China’s state-control that, if it wasn’t for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, would have given authoritarianism a bad name.
China‘s Shenzen province, which borders Hong Kong, and Jilin province, in northeast China, haven’t had a prayer as the state clamped down with compelling corona testing, and forcible lockdowns. Foreign visitors to China, who were always open to the threat of forcible hospitalization if they carried an infection into China, are advised to fly anywhere, to even Kyiv in Ukraine, but to China.
Beady-eyed Chinese clamp-downers, who supposedly went out of fashion 30 years ago, are waiting at immigration to deal with anybody corona-positive with iron gloves masquerading as kid gloves. The unfortunate foreign visitors are bundled into ambulances and “rode” to makeshift medical facilities in the suburbs which look like they will give cramps to throats.
Silence is the key, says an American survivor with a Chinese wife, who was given the suburbs treatment and forced to spend a month in quarantine outside Shanghai. Back in the US, he says he’s done with the Chinese system of entrepreneurship of which he was a beneficiary. His Chinese wife sympathized with him and made all the correct noises as he penned his “China Diary.”
But, like they say in Hindi, from the ‘aasman’ to the ‘kajur tree’, this American didn’t know America is under the threat of a renewed surge in coronavirus, this time from the Omicron variant BA.2. American infectious diseases experts are alarmed at what’s going on in Western Europe. Not Ukraine, but another wave of the pandemic is threatening to derail Europe and the UK. This when Europe has done away with Covid restrictions following a decline in cases.
That was the coronavirus playing games. It is back in force and no country is spared. Germany is seeing an average of 200,000 cases a day. Britain is reeling under a 7-day average of 65,894 cases, and Netherlands was averaging 60,000-plus. All from the B.2 variant, which looks like it is by far more transmissible than the B.1 variant that had torn through the United States.
China and Hong Kong’s “zero covid” policies are not seen as the fit model to beat the coronavirus, which, as the world was grappling with the fallouts of Ukraine and the so-called ‘Islamophobia’, has made a comeback. China and Hongkong has been, according to observers, witnessing “rapid outbreaks,” especially galling to China because it cannot get over allegations that it birthed the virus in the first place.
Now, Israel is claiming a cure and India, which saw a deadly second wave, has just woken up to the dangers of a fresh wave if care is not taken. Covid-appropriate behaviour long went out the window in Indian cities and small towns. The wave of elections that just recently rampaged through five Indian states has so far miraculously not displayed any signs of being ‘maha’ super-spreaders.
But the danger persists. The grand inauguration ceremonies of chief ministers in the election states and the roadshows in Punjab and Gujarat, this one by PM Modi, were venues where the coronavirus could have spread its venom and nobody bothered. Not even when it’s evident that even the vaccinated are not protected. They are as vulnerable to the Omicron as they were to Deltas 1&2.
The United States is apprehensive at this point as to how many of its citizens will get “severely ill” from Omicron BA.2, as even in the developed USA there will be pressure on hospitals and healthcare. Note that the “superior vaccination rates” of European countries aren’t guaranteed.
The White House said the other day that 35,000 cases of BA.2 have been reported in the USA so far. Of course, the WH being the WH, said America was prepared, no worries! Apparently, the talk going around is that BA.2 is not the “dominant variant”, which matches pretty well with the now dead belief in the WH that Russia will not attack.
India’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya is young and serious. He is like no jokes could penetrate his singularly focused demeanor. He met health officials of the bureaucracy and the high-level meeting resolved to be ready for any assault from the coronavirus following the rise in cases in Southeast Asia, China, and Europe. Intense surveillance, aggressive genome sequencing, and a high level of alertness are Mansukh’s baat! (IPA Service)