Covid: here is why the Omicron variant leaves us to expect the end of the pandemic

Published by Caroline J. · Photos by My B. · Published on 5 January 2022 at 19h29
Despite the record-breaking number of Covid-19 contaminations in France, some people are hoping to exit the health crisis, the end of the pandemic, and the return to normal life in the coming months. The reason behind? The Omicron variant considered at this point more contagious but less dangerous. Here is more on the matter.

In November 2021, the outbreak of the Omicron variant let us fear the worst. Very quickly, several countries decided to close their borders to face the threat from this new strain. And yet, Israeli immunologist Zvika Granot from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem did not agree and seemed to fly solo. “In my view maybe this new variant is the light at the end of the tunnel”, he told i24News this past November 30.

Today, several of them are thinking like him and many people are now into believing the Covid-19 pandemic could end with Omicron. But then, why does this variant – first spotted in South Africa – leaves us to expect exiting the health crisis is possible?

To better understand it, you should have a look at the latest data available on the Omicron variant. According to several studies, Omicron is more contagious than the previous variants, but does only lead to little or few severe infections. According to Scientific Committee Member Pr. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, Omicron is even “50 to 80% less severe”.

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This past December 3, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said “the first signals” about the Covid Omicron variant “don’t seem to show excessive seriousness of cases compared to the Delta variant”. The observation tends to be confirmed by several studies released in late December 2021. [Read more]

Faced with these conclusions, some people are now hoping. “Perhaps it’s the last variant, perhaps it’s the last wave, perhaps this wave will enable us to get some sort of immunity”, Health Minister Olivier Véran claimed this January 3 at the Assembly. Same hope for Pr. Alain Fischer who addressed the matter this Monday on BFMTV. He says with the Omicron variant said to be “more transmissible [than the previous variants – Editor’s note], but less aggressive”, we are attending “perhaps” the “beginning of an evolution towards a more common virus like we know”.

Several specialists rely on the herd immunity effect to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Over time, there is hope”, and the “SARS-CoV-2 will join the other seasonal human coronaviruses giving us cold and tonsilitis every winter”, epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet – professor at the Institut Pasteur – told the JDD this Sunday. “We are not there yet. We can expect more new variants to emerge, but our immunity growing over time whether through natural infection or booster, their ability to lead to severe disease will decrease”, he said.

Same call for Bruno Lina – virologist at the Hospices Civils de Lyon and member of the Scientific Committee. “Will everyone eventually end up being immunized against the virus? The answer is clearly yes”, he said this December 3 on France Info. “We’re changing the virus’s software because of the mutations that occurred in the Omicron variant and therefore, the immunity we collectively got”, the professor added on France Info. The Omicron varianttends to infect upper airways more easily, and pulmonary ways less frequently. Viruses following Omicron will be descendants and become seasonal”, he concluded this Monday on LCI.

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And French scientists are not the only ones hoping. In Denmark, Tyra Grove Krause – running the epidemiologic unit of the Scandinavian country’s State Serum Institute – predicts the end of the pandemic within a few months. “I think it will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back”, she told Danish TV 2 channel. “Omicron is here to stay. It will provide some massive spread of infection in the coming month. When it’s over, we’re in a better place than we were before”, she added.

But some doctors would rather be cautious. “This pandemic showed its unpredictability. We cannot say the pandemic is behind us after this wave”, epidemiologist and head of Geneva’s Institute of Global Health Antoine Flahault told BFMTV. “No one expected the outbreak of Omicron. I don’t know what will happen next March”, he said before reminding that herd immunity is a “very theorical concept” relying on some mathematical formula.

I’m sure this won’t be the last wave”, Pr. Eric Caumes – head of the infectious disease at the La Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris – told the AFP this Sunday. “But this could be the last one of this intensity”.

Another factor to take into consideration: “a high number of infections among the population”, according to Israeli health minister director Nachman Ash. In France, the contamination record has been reached in late December with 232,000 cases reported in 24 hours. Furthermore, with a less severe but more contagious virus, the number of positive cases is likely to mechanically lead to an increase in hospitalizations.

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