The coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in 2020 and 2021 and changed people's lifestyles Image Credit: Stock photo/Pixabay

Over the past two weeks, scientists and public health officials have been keeping a close watch on the advent of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, which first emerged in South Africa and its neighbouring nations. Already, travel bans have been implemented by some nations concerned over the spread of this new variant, while quarantine measures and new testing protocols have been put in place as precautionary steps by some nations.

We are now 22 months into this pandemic and are fully aware of the measures that are needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus and its variants. But unlike 22 months ago, we now have developed a range of vaccines that have allowed us to return to a great degree of normalcy — ending the global restrictions on movements that were put in place during the darkest days of the first stage of the pandemic.

It is important to remember too that the scientists and researchers who so quickly mobilised their resources and pooled their knowledge, now know far more about Covid-19, its make-up, its protein spikes, how it attacks the body and how our immune responses can be boosted through vaccinations. We are in a far brighter place than ever before.

It’s important to remember that scientists are still gathering information on Omicron, examining how it differs from the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants that have come before. That the virus has mutated once more should not be a surprise — all viruses do, which is what makes them a constant threat to our collective public health.

If greater travel restrictions are necessary, then so be it. Our experience during these past 22 months have underscored just how successful collective public health responses are to combating coronavirus — and they work.

If there is a lesson for us from the emergence of Omicron, it is that our best line of defence lies in the success of vaccination programmes. As many as possibly ought to be vaccinated, with booster shots adding to our collective immunity and lessening the impact of these variants.

But there is a lesson too that vaccine inequality remains an issue, with an imbalance between those with vaccines and those without ensuring that coronavirus has an opportunity to linger — and mutate. We need to get as many needles into as many arms around the world as quickly as possible, When that happens, there is far less opportunity for mutations to occur.