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The good news about the Omicron variant Vaccine passports won't end the pandemic

Did he just... do something good? (Jeff Gilbert - Pool/Getty Images)


November 29, 2021   6 mins

It may not feel like it, but with Omicron, the new Covid variant, we need to count our blessings.

Omicron has been detected — and may have first arisen — in Gauteng province, South Africa. There have only been a few hundred cases detected, so it’s hard to say much about it with any real certainty. But it appears to be more transmissible and there are concerns that immunity, whether from vaccination or prior infection, will be less effective against it. There have been, as I write, three cases detected in the UK, and there are real (and justified) fears that we are heading once again into a lockdown Christmas. 

But nonetheless, we have been very lucky.

We mustn’t forget that the virus is constantly mutating. Every time it copies itself, there is a chance that it will make some minor error. Most of those mutations either have no effect or make it less effective at spreading. But every so often one will improve it: perhaps make it harder for the immune system to see, or make the virus quicker at copying itself.

The other new variants, notably Alpha and Delta, had several mutations, but Omicron has dozens: around 50. And 10 of them are on the bits of the “spike” protein on the virus’s surface which bind with our cells — the “receptor binding domains”. Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and former member of SAGE, tells me that these are exactly the kind of mutations which virologists have been expecting and dreading: “It’s biologically plausible that they will drive higher transmission. They’ve been identified before as ones we should be really careful about.”

So far, it doesn’t sound very lucky. But in one mutation, Omicron has been kind to us. Like Alpha before it, it has a particular mutation, 69-70del, two missing RNA letters in its genome — part of the “S gene” which codes for the spike protein. By happy chance, those missing letters are at one of three places that many PCR tests look at.

What it means is that if a PCR test comes back positive on two out of its three areas — if it has an “S-gene dropout” — then you can be pretty sure you’ve got one of the variants. It means that Alpha last year and now Omicron can be tracked pretty effectively, just with PCR testing: even without sequencing the genomes, you can see where these S-gene dropout results are happening and it’ll give you a good idea of how the variant is spreading.

“It’s a complete gift that the S-gene dropout hits this variant,” says Ewan Birney, the deputy director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. If it didn’t, we would have much less of an idea where Omicron is. (We’ve actually been lucky twice. If Delta hadn’t replaced Alpha, then the S-gene dropout wouldn’t have told us anything, because both the circulating variants would have had it.)

So far, so good. But is the new variant more transmissible and/or more able to bypass our immunity, whether from vaccines or infection? And is it more or less dangerous to people who catch it?

These are hard questions to answer, because at the moment, we only have data from South Africa, and South Africa’s population is tricky to compare with ours. It’s younger, for a start — the median South African is 26-years old, while the median Brit is 40. It’s also much less vaccinated: somewhere around 75% of Britons have been double-jabbed, while barely a quarter have in South Africa (which is, to my surprise, more to do with uptake than supply). It has also had far fewer confirmed cases per capita.

That said, we can make some guesses. When a new variant emerges, it’s difficult to tell whether it has spread because it is better at spreading, or because it happens to have arisen in a convenient place. Imagine a virus which happened to mutate into a new variant in someone who was about to go to a major conference. It might infect hundreds of people and show up all over the country, but it wouldn’t be because it was any more transmissible — it was just that it got lucky.

With Omicron, this seems unlikely to be the case. Thanks to the S-gene dropout, we can see that it’s spreading faster than you’d expect. Farrar says that “there has been a clear upswing of transmission in Gauteng, which seems to be driven by the variant”. “It probably can outcompete Delta,” says Babak Javid, an immunology lab director at the University of California San Francisco, “although by how much is still up in the air.” 

Is that because it’s better at spreading in general, or because it can evade immunity? So far, we don’t have the data to say for sure. Soon, we’ll start to get results from laboratory studies, and later from epidemiological observations, but Rupert Beale, leader of the Cell Biology of Infection lab at the Crick Institute, thinks it’s “a few weeks before we get useful information, and the other side of Christmas before we know anything definitive”.

But on the plus side, antibodies aren’t the only part of our immune system. We also have T-cells, which are less easily fooled by mutations. To oversimplify, antibodies stop you getting infected in the first place, but T-cells stop you from getting very ill. So Javid and Birney think it is plausible that Omicron will spread quite easily among vaccinated and/or previously infected people, but will be less likely to kill them or make them severely ill.

There has also been speculation that Omicron is inherently less deadly to people with no pre-existing immunity. That’s not impossible, but everyone I spoke to said that any definitive conclusions are premature. “The speculation is extremely uninformed,” says Beale. “We just don’t know until it gets into a more vulnerable population, which sadly it seems it’s likely to. We can hope it’s less pathogenic, but it’s foolish to make that assumption.”

So it might be better at spreading, and able to escape our immunity to at least some degree; and while it’s theoretically possible it might be less deadly, that’s certainly not a proposition we want to put any weight on. The question is: what should we do, and are we facing a second bleak Covid winter?

The pandemic should have taught us that acting early is usually better than acting late, and that preparing for worst-case scenarios is important. It’s like chess, says Beale: “You play your moves in the most flexible order.” If we assume it’ll all be OK, we might be right, but if we’re wrong, we’ll end up with Omicron spreading all over the place. Whereas if we assume it’ll be pretty bad, we can always open up again later on.

I’ve seen a lot of people, some of them very sensible, suggesting that there’s no point closing borders to South Africa because variants will get through anyway, and that it’s just punishing countries for doing good surveillance. But I think they are wrong. 

Yes, the variant will get through, if it hasn’t already. Farrar points out that it was first identified on 11 November, and its sequence suggests that it had already been circulating for some time before then. “I think it may already be on every continent,” he says. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no point in trying to reduce its spread. “Border closures might buy you a little time.” Birney agrees: “Shutting the borders until we understand it, minimising the seeding events, is a good rational move.”

It’s true that there’s a risk of punishing countries for responsible surveillance, but I don’t see what the alternative is — pretending that they don’t have lots of Omicron circulating? Perhaps the thing to do is also put restrictions on countries with poor surveillance.

Because “buying a little time” might be important. If nothing else, it gives us time to understand it: if Omicron is highly virulent and vaccine-resistant, then our best response will be rather different to what it would be if it isn’t. It also gives us a chance to get more boosters in arms and to stockpile antiviral drugs. 

All the same arguments apply to other non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as introducing vaccine passports or asking people to work from home if possible. But there are other things Britain can do, too. 

One thing is to hugely increase our vaccine manufacturing capacity — something which would be good for us and for the world. Rolling out children’s vaccines and booster jabs faster wouldn’t hurt. One scientist I spoke to suggested making antiviral meds available by post when people get a positive result: “They need to be given quickly to have a good effect, so you can’t rely on GP appointments. You need to link them to Track & Trace”. Cheaper, quicker PCR testing at airports would help.”

But while those measures are important, they’re not addressing the root of the issue. For Farrar, the emergence of Omicron is just another reminder that we need to vaccinate the world, not just the rich world. “There’s been political drift for months now, in terms of access to vaccines,” he said. “The rich world thought it was over, so they’ve been kicking it into the long grass.” Variants like Omicron will continue to arise until the world has a decent level of immunity.

We’ve been lucky, with Omicron. But it may well still end up becoming the dominant strain, just as Delta did before it. If it doesn’t, then another one will come along. And it will be “incredibly disruptive”, says Farrar: “Everyone’s putting restrictions in.” Certainly, to avoid another lockdown Christmas, we need to act now.

But if we want to be sure we don’t have another one next year, we need to get this pandemic behind us — and that means billions more doses of vaccine, distributed around the world. We won’t always be so lucky.


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
2 years ago

I am pro-vaccination in general, but this is a deeply muddled article. It extensively quotes Jeremy Farrar, which set alarm bells ringing straight away. It offers a “way out” which, by its own logic, isn’t a way out at all. We are not going to get the majority of the world vaccinated – not so much because of supply (though the logistics and timescales involved are formidable), nor because of Western greed or hubris, but mainly because of chronic lack of uptake in the developing world – which the article acknowledges but then, bizarrely, ignores. Look at it from the point of view of some of these countries, with much younger populations, lower obesity rates etc. – they are much less vulnerable to covid that we are in the West; they have much bigger problems.

I am pro-vax, but vaccination has its limitations. It does not confer complete protection, and again as the article points out, new variations of the virus are bound at some point to become more resistant to vaccinations, and every time that happens it will take probably the best part of a year to develop, test, approve and fully roll out any new vaccination that will offer better resistance to the new strain – by which time, said new strain is already endemic if it’s more transmissible than existing variants.

I don’t have all the answers to this. To continue the chess analogy, fighting covid is like playing someone who’s always several moves ahead. You can’t “get ahead” of it. I am increasingly convinced we’re trying to fight the wrong battle, one that’s obviously unwinnable. By all means roll out boosters, get as many people vulnerable people protected as possible, develop and roll out new treatments. These are all good things. But any solution that requires vaccinating 80+% of the world’s population – and keeping it vaccinated, year after year – is a pipe dream, an utterly futile attempt to wipe out a disease that’s already globally endemic. We cannot prevent future mutations. This will keep happening. We cannot keep panicking and pointlessly locking down every time, ignoring the now fully known costs of doing so – which this article completely ignores. That is not living with covid, that is living with fear.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

Best reader comment I have read on here in ages, many thanks Chris.

piers.bishop
piers.bishop
2 years ago

Anything which relies heavily on Farrar is highly dubious IMHO.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago

This was superb.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

Amen!

Bashar Mardini
Bashar Mardini
2 years ago

Excellent. We have entrenched so much bad behavior for nothing.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago

Yes! We also need to be focusing more on fixing the damage that has been done, notably child development, care for the elderly and all other medical conditions that aren’t covid.

John Shone
John Shone
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Agreed. The two main things COVID has brought to light in the “West” is (1) egregious ageism, and (2) socialized medicine’s empty promise. Indeed, I feel we might be suffering through the Baby Boomers’ last grasp at immortality

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  John Shone

Your argument is flawed.
There are millions of Baby Boomers (me included) who do not believe in these measures. These measures have been introduced by governments who are virtue signalling towards their ‘progressive’ electorate – and the progressive electorate is mainly young. I am editing to include that they are signalling to people who are just a wee bit… illogical but want to occupy a moral high ground.
Further, if you ask care home residents and many of the elderly, they want their family around them – they do not want to live in isolation for the last years of their lives. They are more scared of isolation than of Covid and lockdowns.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  John Shone

I thought my grasp of the english language was reasonable but I’ve no idea what you mean or are implying. And the ”Baby Boomers” term? Where does that come from? I mean the booming part and what’s the relevance of Baby since we were all babies at one time or other? OK, I know I’ve heard it over the last year or two and figure it might apply to me or others born in the 50’s and 60’s, but we’ve been properly educated and worked our asses off for 40+ years to get to where we are,so what’s the significance?
Judging by Western society as it’s developing or maybe degenerating as some would see it I wonder if the ageing section of the population are all that interested in immortality?

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Charles Elliston
Charles Elliston
2 years ago

And supporting your last point, the demonising of S. Africa apparently at the beginning of it’s tourist season with the inevitable consequences to its already battered economy.

Charlie Walker
Charlie Walker
2 years ago

Brilliant – agree with every sentence – Thank you!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

That is a brilliant, rational, coherent and non-hysterical argument! Well put!

mfield953
mfield953
2 years ago

The situation with variants is not as hopeless as you imply. Work is going on to develop universal coronavirus vaccines, effective against all coronaviruses – not just covid, but other coronaviruses that may emerge in the future. Obviously this is not easy and any such vaccine would have to target a “highly conserved” region of the virus, that is, a region that can’t vary without making the virus unviable. As at February 2021, human trials for the first such vaccine were due to start this year:
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24933233-500-first-universal-coronavirus-vaccine-will-start-human-trials-this-year/

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

To further continue the chess analogy, here’s some advice to Tom Chivers: resign, your position is hopeless.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
2 years ago

Put it this way Chris: Whenever somebody quotes Jeremy Farrar, Neil Ferguson and/or Susan Michie(the latter 2 BTW does NOT have any actual degree or experience in epidemiology, virology or evolutionary biology), alarms bells should be set off everywhere!
And 2 more things that might be a clue for all this fearmongering:

  1. SAGE stands for Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, and they’ve got their estimates wrong on towards the more alarmist side. Well, if there’s no emergency will they be getting a bigger portion of the taxpayers’ money?
  2. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is among those saying that subsequent annual booster doses are needed for everyone. Follow the money, and you’ll get my point.

And yes, we cannot keep panicking and pointlessly locking down with every wave, the UK did the right thing opening back up in July, I just hope that those won’t be just a one-hit wonder, but increasingly becoming the calm, sensible norm!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

First you say:

“75% of Britons have been double-jabbed, while barely a quarter have in South Africa (which is, to my surprise, more to do with uptake than supply).”

And they you use that popular refrain:

“the emergence of Omicron is just another reminder that we need to vaccinate the world, not just the rich world. “

So you say the Africans who do not wish to get the vaccine (which is what the link says – although anyone who fallows the world at all, already knew this) need the more enlightened, Liberal/Left West, to somehow make them – or at least incentivize them to get Vaxxed up.

Maybe a Biden Mandate? An Australian or Austrian Mandate? Or just explain it slowly so they understand it? I have always wondered how the Vax pushers were planning to get the billions in the world, who have very low risk from covid indeed, but a very strong resistance to getting the vax, to allow them selves to be vaccinated – how do you plan to give it to them? I am the least Woke of any, but how do you get a couple billion foreigners to do something they do not want to do – and is that not the most Neo-Colonialism, White Patriarchy, attitude?

And as I watch the cheap frozen pizza I occasionally get go from $3 to $3.75 overnight, and filling up my truck has gone from $45 to $75, and the Dollar Tree store (everything a dollar) is now to become the $1.25 Tree, and my guess sometime in 2022, the $1.50 Tree – because the insane Covid Response Money Printing increased the money supply 30% wile reducing the goods and serves, and so Inflation not seen since the 1970s naturally happened – You Vax Mandaters will add trillions more debt on your fool’s errand of harassing the world, and your own people, to vax for no good reason.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Spot on.

How do you jab 7.7 b spread around the world without the virus mutating? I’d like to know the answer too. Especially since a few billion don’t want it? And if you are heading to China you are only allowed in if you have the Chinese vaccines, in the west it’s any western ones, in Russia, it’s only the Russian. There not even a world wide agreement to allow travel if you have been simply vaccinated. And now the world is watching as SA is being penalised for being honest about omicron. The world lauded China despite it being covert. The message is that might is right even if you are dishonest.

Now what’s the point of jabbing away since it’s mild virus anyway. It’s good news for the health of the world but bad news for the governments that have put sooo much energy into vaccines and vaccine passes . So keep on worrying everyone. Especially the jabbed who are now even more likely to get the virus anyway.

Last edited 2 years ago by Alka Hughes-Hallett
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

Yes, I have a problem understanding how vaccination is going to work without encouraging more mutations. If we could magically vaccinate the whole world overnight that would be great. Is partially vaccinating not a bit pointless? Or dangerous? I need help to get my head around it

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

I feel a lot more relaxed now that my parents are vaccinated. If, as seems likely, they will be protected from serious illness/death even if new mutations can infect them
 isn’t that the point? Soon enough, there will be enough supply of the new antivirals to reduce the risk from Covid such that it really is just like a bad flu. Then, I suppose, we won’t need to worry about vaccine resistance because the disease will be treatable anyway. So think of the vaccines as a stop-gap
? (Not what they were sold as, admittedly; and “we won’t need to worry” clearly doesn’t mean that we won’t be strongly encouraged to!)

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

You are, of course, entirely correct

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

It’s been curable if given early since the beginning with Ivermectin, but to this day it is not allowed into Britain, presumably by Big Pharma. Now Pfizer have made one which cost 200 times as much but which is less effective. Anyone smell the money?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I have my horse de-wormer in by cabinet, and have used it 3 times, the last time when my 96 year old mother who lives next door in my cottage, got covid a couple months ago, and I also had cold/cough symptoms. She naturally is double vaxed. She showed almost no symptoms but was tested positive wile getting a checkup at the hospital. The bad effect with her was 3 weeks of fatigue and appatite loss – as she is tiny the weight loss can never be put back, and she now gets tired easy because of this, but walks 4 times a day around my place and up my road, goes out to church 3 times a week, and goes shopping a couple times a week – basically she had a long covid response to a minor covid (mild raised temp for 2 weeks as well) case. (in about week 2 she said she would like to just pass away if she had to keep feeling that weak, tired, and poorly – but then finally got better.) People in my family usually get to 100, tough Highland Scott.

Oliver Tuckley
Oliver Tuckley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

If it was a vaccine (under the new definition) your parents accepted, then it is a leaky one. Marek’s disease in chickens is the lesson which appears not to have been learned. The virus may have become under evolutionary pressure in Gauteng province where Merck carried on its Molnupiravir trials. That anti-viral deploys a novel mechanism of action, not the known safe one by which Ivermectin works. Is widespread use of Molnupiravir at a time of prevalence yet another experiment? I would like to know if there is any substance to this concern. If the end-goal is herd immunity (with stratifications or levels of immunity in different sections of society as we have for millenia conquered pathogens with our natural immune systems), why put the virus under what may be dangerous evolutionary pressure with novel treatments the outcome of which cannot be forecast with any certainty before that goal is attained? The only safe course would have been focussed protection as advocated by the GBD.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

Yes, certain virologists have warned since the beginning of the year that vaccinating during a pandemic with a non-sterilizing vaccine can drive mutations – but of course this became a taboo ‘conspiracy theory’.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

Presumably, the mutations are random. If they tended to be more transmissible but less dangerous, then that might be a good thing

jim peden
jim peden
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

As I understand it, the virus has about 10000 base pairs and about 1 error per 1000 occurs per reproduction so there are 10 per virus copy. Most of these make no difference, some are non-viable, and a very, very few lead to improvement (for the virus). If the host has been vaccinated then it would seem that those few are going to be the ones that evade any protection offered by the vaccine, given it’s non-sterilising. As you rightly say, less dangerous would be better and that would be the natural way for the virus to go as living, healthy hosts are much better for its propagation. The question is: have all these interventions made things better or worse than they would otherwise be?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

None of us have got our heads around it Rodney but many have an inkling that something doesn’t add up with Big Pharma and Big Tech for that matter.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

But just because Big Pharma wants to make a killing, it doesn’t mean that vaccines aren’t a stop-gap to protect “from serious illness/death” as Jonathan said. He’s also correct to mention “new antivirals to reduce the risk from Covid such that it really is just like a bad flu”

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

They won’t allow us to have the antivirals that multiple doctors have proved work. If you are not wondering why you should be.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“how do you plan to give it to them? I am the least Woke of any, but how do you get a couple billion foreigners to do something they do not want to do – and is that not the most Neo-Colonialism, White Patriarchy, attitude?”

White saviour complex!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

But what about the loss to Big Pharma if people don’t get vaccinated? Is that fair?

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

So early in the morning and already I want to vomit.
The most annoying bit is the clickbait subheadline which has nothing to do with the article, quite the opposite.

Anyway, my mistake for reading some of Chivers’s produce.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea X
Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

You can already see the pattern developing where Boris Johnson little by little tightens the restrictions. He pledges “one more heave”, promises that there will be no lockdown and, hey presto, exactly the opposite happens. All this is accompanied by a drumbeat of panic and irresponsible reporting whipped up by the media.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

So what’s new.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Nothing. That’s what makes it is a recognisable pattern of behaviour.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

Playing to the numpty electorate.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Yes, but the comments make it worthwhile. There’s often more insight and clarity here than the journalists are able to express.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

“Anyway, my mistake for reading some of Chivers’s produce.”

Don’t knock Chivers – he is one of the writers here which make Unherd great.

You have to admit Chivers is thorough, brings in many threads to his argument – And so always causes one to think. (and that, to me, he is usually wrong means I get to think about why I believe in my convictions, which things agreeing with you do not.)

Chivers is very much an Unherd asset.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Perhaps, but on this subject has been singularly annoying of late (or perhaps from the start…)

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yep, if it was all from one set of opinions we wouldn’t be able test our thinking without haveing to actually read the MSM – phew!

heidi herrmann
heidi herrmann
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I love Unherd a lot of the time, but T. Chivers invariably disappoints.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

It also seems to me that Farrar (and Chivers) is just pushing the panic button before knowing what’s what. According to the South African doctors, the symptoms from Omicron are exceptionally mild with tiredness, muscle aches and perhaps a cough for a couple of days, with no loss of smell, no deaths and no hospitalizations. If that’s really the case, then the emergence of a new more transmissible but less pathogenic strain should actually be considered a blessing, should it not?

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Yep, and surely this is the way we would expect all of this to end, and we just live with it – like flu

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The trouble is they have no scientific evidence to say why it’s more transmissible. The ability of a virus to be more transmissible is down to a biological function and not something you can determine from epidemiological data. They made the same mistake with the Kent variant which took us in to the 3rd lockdown. The general claim was that it had a higher viral load, which was dispelled by SAGE themselves.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

If it’s easier to detect it would appear to be more transmissible.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The poor in South Africa and elsewhere are fighting for their lives – not because of Covid (Omnicron, Nu, Beta, Blocker, Whatever), but because of lockdowns. When are people going to understand this.
So far the response I’ve seen in South Africa is just…. move this right along please… next. I am even sensing a sea change in all but the most entrenched Covidian (i.e. those that think endless lockdowns and mask wearing is going to win the day and every life saved from a Covid death is worth the millions lost to lockdown – mostly the middle class and wealthy who have food on the table and money in the bank/money coming in).
Further, one of the first (hilarious) videos to circulate in South Africa at the beginning of the year is one that suggests that all politicians vaccinate each other first so that safety can be ascertained. Vaccine hesitancy is real and the West is not trusted to have their best interests at heart. Hell, even I don’t trust the West any longer. Biden, Fauci, that guy Lizard Man in the UK -Whitty, Johnson…. the whole of Austria and Italy and etc – sick of the lot of them.
Thank goodness for the thinkers and questioners and mavericks and rebels and true moral people who have woken up.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

The economic damage done by lockdowns and the covid response are 100X worse than just letting the people use their judgement (and the vax development – I am not against the vax, but feel it is not cost worthy for the fit and younger, good for anyone who wants it, or needs it though)ï»ż

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The South Africans do not suffer from covid nearly as much as us Westerners do – they are younger, fitter and may have some innate resistance either from other exposures to viruses endemic there, or other reasons and have just over half the deaths we do.ï»ż

Till it gets here we just do not know.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

“One thing is to hugely increase our vaccine manufacturing capacity — something which would be good for us and for the world. Rolling out children’s vaccines and booster jabs faster wouldn’t hurt”.

This is nothing but a promotional press release on behalf of big pharma.

I can’t believe there is anyone out there who can’t see straight through this.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Increasing manufacturing capacity will certainly be good for Pharma profits. Whether it will do any good for the rest of the human race…..

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

It is a good job all the vaccines are free, otherwise it would be easy to think that the pharmaceutical companies are ramping up the fear in order to boost revenues.

David Simpson
David Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I don’t think the pharmaceutical companies are giving vaccines away! Someone is paying them, even if not us at the point of delivery

John Shone
John Shone
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Good one, Paul.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  John Shone

I thought my sarcasm was pretty obvious, but it seems some people thought i was being serious.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

They are not free. We are paying one way or another like we pay for national health.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

Keep reading the narrative. A marxist maxim is that if you keep repeating something long enough the masses will belive it.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

As the risk for children getting severe illness or dying from Covid is minimal, it makes no sense to vaccinate healthy children. Also the potential side effects of the vaccination is a higher risk to them than Covid itself.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

A case of the cure may be worse than the illness.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

You’d be surprised. Many are swallowing the narrative or are at least like a rabbit caught in the headlights not knowing what to do.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Yep. Rolling out the vaccine to kids “won’t hurt”? Sure it won’t hurt Tom Chivers. It won’t hurt the vast majority of kids who get jabbed, at least not in the immediate term. But no-one knows about the long term effects, hopefully they will negligible. But what about the poor innocent children that it does, inevitably, hurt? I challenge Chivers to go and tell the parents of the kids who have died of vaccine injuries that it “won’t hurt”. I challenge him to sit at the bedside of kids in hospital, and to tell them that it “won’t hurt”. And don’t tell me that it on balance protects kids. Whitty himself said in April 2021 that “the closer you get [down] to 20 years of age and a paragon of health” the closer the risks of Covid and the vaccine get “to parity”. And then he goes and overrules JVCI and authorises the rollout to kids.

So sure, offer an experimental emergency-use licensed experimental genetic therapies to consenting adults if they really want to chance their arms, but (literally) for goodness’ sake please don’t give it to defenceless kids incapable of giving consent.

Have we lost our minds?

Jacqueline Walker
Jacqueline Walker
2 years ago

The headline writer obviously didn’t read the article. I agree that vaccine passports are useless but Chivers doesn’t mention that point anywhere. Instead the whole thing reads like a vaccine sales pitch when it’s hard to see how the UK could be any more (usefully) vaccinated than it already is. And the claim that widespread immunity will stop the virus mutating? Not with these leaky vaccines surely?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Remember Bill Gates Quantum Dot Vaccine track? He had this developed for Africa and other areas of low personal ID and tracking. As it gives a vax it uses nano-crystals to basically give an invisible tattoo at the site, which can contain data readable by a special smart phone. Search Quantum Dots + Gates…..

“According to statements made by Gates, societal and financial normalcy may never return to those who refuse vaccination, as the digital vaccination certificate Gates is pushing for might ultimately be required to go about your day-to-day life and business. Without this “digital immunity proof,” you may not even be allowed to travel locally or visit certain public buildings.”

Build Back Better, bbb, 666, and Revelations 13:16

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” “and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I did the search. Quite a lot of scientific articles on quantum dots. Only one, from something called the Truman Tribune, saying Gates funds MIT, who are researching QD.

Media blocking the truth or tin hat conspiracy theory?

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Next some conspiracy theorist will be saying that the media is receiving millions of dollars in ad revenues from big pharma. Crazy folk. As if the media could be bought off by the pharmaceutical industry.

And anyway, it isn’t like big pharma are doing this for the money, is it?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Be careful – some might not understand the sarcasm.

Art C
Art C
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Agreed. It’s an outrageous suggestion! And even in the unlikely event that they were doing it for money we should all continue to support Big Pharma. Everyone knows they are a tremendous force for good in our society.

Last edited 2 years ago by Art C
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Art C

Oh yes they are doing a wonderful job shutting down competition and any other treatment that might help like Ivermectin. Why do government push the new Pfizer medication and play down Ivermectin which has been proved to be much better even though it is only 60 cents a does?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Got the sarcasm, but it wasn’t a snide remark (unlike the response) it was a legitimate question.

Do we really think a cabal of a few individuals in business and politics are coordinating some sort of global take over? The Uber rich in pharma and tech are conspiring to reduce the human race to puppets at their command. It’s possible to discern common motives for them and there’s certainly evidence of tech suppressing news. Less easy to see how it’s in the interest of politicians, still subject to short term elect cycles. Even harder to imagine the egos involved (many of whom are probably medically certifiable psychopaths) being able to pull off the cooperation required.

It seems to me there are many legit reasons for questioning a global roll out of a vaccine. Resorting to “Davis elite out to get us” is conceivably true but one of the least interesting.

That said, I thought bbb/666 was rather brilliant in conjunction with the quotes from Revelations. It’s easy to see how these things take hold.

To Arthur’s point, I thought going back to the Stone Age was the leftists answer to everything. Bad people at the top, probably, but would you want to live without modern pharmaceuticals? What motive, other than profit, do you think makes it all work?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

It is odd why government co-operates. Are they just pliable as they are to LGBT etc? Or is it that some have their snouts in the trough? Will we ever know?

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

There are many similarities between Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Both have a track record of fixing test results to suit their own purposes, ie. maximum profits. Indeed Pfizer has the shameful record of paying the biggest criminal fine ever.

Also, both industry relied on a supportive media who would refrain from saying anything had about them for fear of losing outvon the collosal ad spends.

As for politicians, they benefit in numerous ways from help fund election campaigns throught to lucrative non-exec roles when they finally retire.

So it isn’t so much an evil cabal as the 1% just doing what the 1% has always done.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

What was it that Boris was reported to have said? “Do five or six years of this and then off to make some real money!”?

It seemed to work for Blair and Major and, to a limited extent, Cameron.

That’s why it’s in the interest of politicians to play along.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I don’t know so much.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Well, Scientific American, which is not known for wearing a tin hat had an article about it, including the Gates connection. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/invisible-ink-could-reveal-whether-kids-have-been-vaccinated/

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 years ago

new avenues for decentralised data storage (on a human….) and biosensing….https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.aay7162#.YaNpfX7Bkh4.twitter

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

It is frightening how close we are coming to that. Look at China as well.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

I have observed in the right quarters that many have been damaged by the vaccines. I have also observed the cover ups in the mass media to quickly shut down the news about vaccine damage. The software is amazing these days in the way that Big Tech can shut down news that disagrees with the narrative.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Bret Weinstein calls Ivermectin ‘the medicine which may not be named’, and trys to not use the word covid and vaccine

BECAUSE the algorythms of youtube catch those by instant speech recognition, and kick the video to a watch list – and too many and you ger temp bann, di-finantialized, or perma banned. George Gmmon calles it the Cervesa Sikness in his youtubes because saying covid or vax gets you watched and in trouble with the social media tyrants.

Stewart B
Stewart B
2 years ago

This man is a lunatic.
Expand vaccine capacity! Put jabs in arms! Act early! Get the situation under control!
Stop. Enough. You don’t control the world and you certainly don’t control the microbial world. And these incessant attempts by bureaucrats to do so is causing untold misery.
I don’t care how clever you think you are or how clever “scientists” think they are. We aren’t your guinea pigs, we aren’t your slaves, we don’t live to satisfy your ambitions to control things.
Stop.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

Correct
Correct !
Correct
Correct
Correct

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

Having already p!ssed a gazillion quid up the wall that we didn’t have on this scamdemic perhaps now is the time to do a cost benefit analysis on anyone dependent on increasingly expensive and barely effective synthetic therapies to survive a virus so deadly it kills somewhere south of 0.2% of the population.
What ever happened to NICE?

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Coffey
Richard Lord
Richard Lord
2 years ago

So once again the Government ignore mental health and determine that masks in secondary schools and shops are needed, but not hospitality. Can anyone explain this?

Once again the Boris dictatorship is panicked into action, petrified by the prospect of the alarmist media criticising them. Of course a cynic would claim this is a welcome distraction from recent Government cockups.

Given the reaction of the UK Government and others, why would any other country give notice of a future variant?

This has to stop. I haven’t had a flu vaccine and three covid vaccines to go back to wearing a mask.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Mask return is theatre. If this non-surgical item were as useful in halting or even slowing transmission – in ways that decades of research has never unearthed – then transmission would not have gotten so rapidly out of hand in so many places that made them compulsory.
Good for stopping flecks of spittle, but the air itself? Er…

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip L

More aerosols than spittle, but I agree. Don’t get me started on hand washing

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip L

Especially only mandated masks in shops and public transport, but not in restaurants, where we eat and talk to each other
 it is pure theatre. The only masks, which have fairly decent protection indoors, are the FPP2s, according to a lung and aerosol German Specialist, but only when properly worn over nose and mouth. The rest of the masks are useless 


stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

FFP2 are not certified as protecting against virus or bacteria. FFP3 are to 95% effectiveness if used properly but are significantly more expensive and properly means single use. FFP3 with outlet valves are not allowed on many airlines since they don’t offer protection to others, only to the wearer.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

i read the report of a well known German aerosol specialist, who said that reinforced FFP2 masks (with special panel or double mask) do protect better against virus infections than surgical masks. He is also a Professor in respiratory diseases and researched masks for 20 years in laboratory conditions. There they were over 50% effective. But of course in casual daily use the effectiveness will fall rapidly as people don‘t wear them properly and overuse them. Also they don‘t take them on and off properly. The highest risk of infection is in lifts, as the aerosols stay in there for following passengers
Basically the virus behaves like cigarette smoke.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

I have some FFP3 masks, which I bought when I got a citation for jury service, and I hadn’t been vaccinated. I may use them on planes, but it’s looking less likely that we’ll make it to Germany for New Year 🙁

I can adjust them for a tight fit, but they are a bit unpleasant to wear. I seem to remember some evidence that you can wash them

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

On flights with Austrian and Swiss the flight attendants gave a big no-no to my FFP3 mask with an exhalation valve. But putting a standard surgical mask on top of this was OK!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

So we can wear those in restaurants then. Er…….

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Cut them open at the mouth 🙂

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I do, because I like a bit of theatre

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

By the way, the argument that masks are 53% turned out to be flawed. Proper studies are hard or impossible, but effectiveness seems to be marginal at best.

I suspect it’s because people don’t use good close fitting masks. A decent mask will block the aerosols, but that’s hard to make happen in the real world

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

N95 masks are reasonably effective but very difficult to wear for long periods of time. The mask mandates are pure theatre and indicate blind compliance of a population.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

That reflects my current view. Strangely, l am blindly? complying with good FFP2 (=N95) masks in the hope it saves me, but it’s probably fruitless

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

Rodney, hold the faith. You can’t wear a mask forever and who would want to? We all have to die and I don’t want to die having worn a mask for years.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

And cost-wise it depends on which FFP3 you are using – a valved NR D or a valved R D. NR D = valved Non Reusable- Dolomite and R D = Reusable-Dolomite. With the valved R D you can apparently reuse it, and the D means it has passed “D â€“ these filters have passed the Dolomite clogging test, giving the user better breathing resistance.”
https://www.safetysupplies.co.uk/products/respiratory-protection/ffp3/
I don’t know the accurate efficacy of these masks, but taking the plunge I use a valved FFP3 R D because I have close vulnerable relatives.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

Valves are evil 🙂

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Michael, are you planning to wear this for the rest of your life? It is something you are going to have to ask yourself, because when this virus disappears (please god), there are more hoving into view.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

The good masks might block a little but you are building up germs on the mask and then breathing them in.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

You have a point there. It’s not hard to transfer the virus to the inside with your fingers etc

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

They are just rubbish and I wasted a lot of money being one of the first uptakers in South Africa. They are airborne – when we found this out, the game was over.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

But even 50% effectiveness for non-N95 masks, if it were true, is next to useless. After all if one’s teenager daughter were sexually active and was using a contraceptive method that was only 50% effective, one would be none too pleased, and all it would do would be to delay the inevitable pregnancy by a week or two. Same thing with masks. Some may view the slight flattening of the curve as a marginal gain, but I would view it as a distinct minus unless flattening was required to prevent hospitals from overflowing which they never did, even in NYC at the beginning of the pandemic.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I suspect it’s not a valid comparison, but my brain hurts too much 🙂

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

It’s an absolutely valid comparison. The analogy is completely comparable and deals with exactly the same sort of problem. Think about it for a little and you’ll see why. And then your brain will stop hurting once you see the light.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I wear a mask even though my feeling is that they are more a symbol of compliance rather than effective against sub-microscopic particles. The reason? It makes my loved ones feel comfortable. I have long since given up arguing the science with them and want to live without constant conflict. And when I question close friends about the subject they give the same reasoning. So we’re all doing something that most know is almost pointless medically, but we do it anyway. Humans..what a weird lot!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  David Lonsdale

Unfortunately that is what is going to win the day for masks. Ultimately compliance because of the feelings of others (adults). In the meantime, children are being brought up scared, wearing masks and unable to learn the reading of facial expressions.
Masks are evil.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Exactly, thank you.

Bashar Mardini
Bashar Mardini
2 years ago

So, I see this headline citing good news and think to myself “oh, maybe Unherd picked up on that Doc in SA who identified this variant and has so far seen nothing but very mild cases”
But noooo, instead its regurgitated vaccine, authoritarianism and safetyism drivel
Someone send this guy back to the Guardian

Art C
Art C
2 years ago

Nothing like a sneer from an habitual troll to remind us about the type of people running the covid extremism operation.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

If it infects the vaccinated, then the vaccine is irrelevant. If it doesn’t infect the vaccinated, then new lockdowns are unnecessary.
Then, if (big if at the moment) it has a milder effect than the original Covid then it would be better for the milder version to spread in place of the original to boost natural immunity.
The only point it becomes a reason to panic is if it is similar to original Covid in severity, and it can be caught and transmitted by the vaccinated. In which case, we’re at day zero again, requiring brand new vaccines and facing an interminable war with continual cycles of jabs and variants, until better, more generic, vaccines can be developed.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

I don’t go along with the idea that vaccines are either 100% effective or useless, but you surely you are right that any mild and highly transmissible variant should be allowed to spread (as if we could stop it)

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

I agree, was thinking the same re. your 2nd point, but how will big Pharma and the puppet governments react to this bad news? If this really turns out to be the case and the censorship is not successful, then the masses will be queueing up for superspreader events rather than taking the 3rd or 4th or 4th+ jabs.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Yeah. Once your own immunity deals with it you are in a good position.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

One cannot mess around with one’s immune system too much. It is a beautiful thing. We are not built to be continually vaccinated.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

101 Uses For a Tom Chivers
#1 – Draft excluder.

Last edited 2 years ago by andrew harman
David Simpson
David Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

He’s probably too thin

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Mr Harman
I think I would rather rely on Tom Chivers than somebody with limited understanding of the issues. Is there a point to your post save being rude?

Have a wonderful evening.

D Oliver
D Oliver
2 years ago

Here we are nearly two years into the pandemic and scientists remain unable to restrict themselves to commenting on scientific matters. Avoiding a lockdown is a political decision, Mr Chivers, as events in America have shown. Please stick to the science and keep your policy views to yourself. If you don’t want to do the latter, perhaps you can expand on your policy preferences in a separate article unrelated to scientific comment.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  D Oliver

Non sequiturs now!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Lowering the tone of conversations… nothing more than trolling.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

Yes Lesley, as someone else as observed, nothing more than snide sneering and not designed at all to contribute to debate. I rather suspect her debating skills are very limited.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Her? Could be his!

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  D Oliver

I think you are projecting.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago
Reply to  D Oliver

We are not pretending to be impartial journalists.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  D Oliver

Welcome to the comments.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Indeed.
What delicious irony that people who imagine they not ‘Herd’ in fact create a herd.
depressing too

Art C
Art C
2 years ago

 “the emergence of Omicron is just another reminder that we need to vaccinate the world
I’m afraid I still need to be convinced that the vaccines actually work. The clamour for boosters isn’t helping. Nor does last week’s “false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic” warning from the WHO. Here it is: “If you are vaccinated, .. you are still at risk of being infected, and of infecting others” followed by “Tedros .. urged (vaccinated people) to continue to take precautions to prevent getting infected and infecting others, including wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, avoiding crowds, meeting people outside or in well-ventilated spaces.” Go figure! For now, it’s probably best to stick with the more obvious explanations for vaccination hysteria: political stunt (or worse), Big Pharma ($$), placebo or aspirin solution.

Last edited 2 years ago by Art C
Mark McKee
Mark McKee
2 years ago

A variant that seems to bypass existing medical interventions (aka ‘vaccines’ that provide no immunity) leads to a response from the author to get more of the boosters and jabs rolled out on a larger scale worldwide. The more people that get infected with less harmful variants, the weaker the virus becomes, no? The main winners here are Pfizer et al (that firm is on track to make $33billion in 2021 from its mRNA medical intervention. I see evidence that the writer is more of an ideological cheerleader for corporate interests than anything else. This is a great example of 21st century Neo-colonialism and strip-mining of democratic freedoms so many fought and died for.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago

So many contradictions in this article. You say that the new variant Omicron is vaccine resistant, but putting restrictions in place, would give us time to booster the population
 makes absolutely no sense.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago

We need to get infected with it (asymptomatically or mildly), to get the T and B cell responses up. Spike protein vaccines may not be giving us sufficiently deep immunity.
Lockdowns will kill some of my single friends. The cost is now too high.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
2 years ago
Reply to  Corrie Mooney

Corrie, I’m a single guy in my mid-20s who had lived alone during the 1st 2 waves of lockdowns in Australia(I lived there till past March, and now based in SW London) and barely survived them, but the fearmongering narrative of lockdowns and mandates are dividing society and exacerbating cancel culture, and it makes dating a whole lot trickier!
Also it isn’t only our single friends we need to speak out for, but also those in relationships & families rife of domestic violence, lockdowns are basically putting these poor souls into gas chambers of despair and torture, thus slowly yet painfully killing them!

Andrew Crisp
Andrew Crisp
2 years ago

Why are you ignoring the fact that 99% of the population get over these corona viruses, that is what gives health.

J Hop
J Hop
2 years ago

Considering the vaxxed also spread and mutate the virus your authoritarian response wouldn’t even be effective.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

Tom, I haven’t actually checked what the 69-70del mutation is but if it entails the deletion of 2 RNA nucleotides as you wrote, then the entire amino acid sequence subsequent to the two nucleotide deletion mutation would be altered and in all likelihood the resulting protein would be garbage (i.e. not even be able to fold). As I’m sure you know, the genetic code is a triplet code. Are you sure the mutation doesn’t involve a 6 nucleotide deletion, i.e. 2 amino acids deleted in the resulting protein.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago

Down in New Orwellia the mad Aussies have discovered the variant has reached Sydney, i.e. in the country where refuseniks are point blank prohibited from entering on pain of repeating beatings and must “make a legally binding declaration in relation to their vaccination status” prior to arrival.
And right there is your answer to passports, not this article – which turned out to be another jab obsessive take that could have been written any time last year.
Vaccines! That’s the way to end this!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Do you want the bad news then? Vaccine passports aren’t about ending the pandemic.

Andrew Floyd
Andrew Floyd
2 years ago

Official government announcement: The global “Pandemic” will officially be over when we run out of letters in the greek alphabet. Until that time, be very afraid.

jim peden
jim peden
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Floyd

Given we’ve skipped a few letters, I’m hoping the omega variant will show up very soon and we can all go home.

John Vaccaro
John Vaccaro
2 years ago

A disappointing article Mr Chivers. We’ve been following what the likes of Jeremy Farrar says for too long. Vaccination, although welcome, shouldn’t be the only solution and yet it is the one that governments and the mainstream media continues to pursue exclusively. Lots of mixed messaging – ‘this variant may avoid the vaccine but come forward for your booster’, ‘we don’t know if it’s more transmissible but wear a (pointless) cloth mask in the shop’. The audacity to say that vaccinating children for a disease that is virtually meaningless to them “may buy us some time” – seriously, if that’s what its come to maybe I should vaccinate my dog in that case.
No questioning around therapeutics or alternative treatments, no plan to boost capacity within the NHS, no advice to the public to help live with Covid – the first thing governments, scientists and the media stooges move for is pointless placebo masks, more testing/quarantine and a likely new vaccine rollout. Good money for the pharmaceutical and test kit companies but this approach makes daily live immeasurably poorer for a disease with a 99.95% survival rate in most cases.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Vaccaro
andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

The Queen of the False Dichotomy and Straw Man argument strikes again.
Tell me Julie, do you only come on here to insult posters? I take issue with much of what certain contributors put on here, especially the conspiracy theorists (they know who they are) but I am a firm believer in Hannah Arendt’s marketplace of a free exchange of idea, engaged with and if need be deconstructed with argument. No debate is enhanced by fatuous generalisations that border on trolling. Oh and before you say anything, my previous comment on Mr Chivers was my attempt at a bit of Monday morning satirical humour and is not to be taken seriously

Last edited 2 years ago by andrew harman
Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

“Julie Blinde” has told us elsewhere on UnHerd that his/her name is an invention. Probably best not to interact with imposters.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

Indeed. someone who has no serious or constructive points to make. I will ignore in future. Nothing more embarrassing than a person who tries to be funny and fails dismally.

Phillip Bailey
Phillip Bailey
2 years ago

That’s a shame – I thought one of the strengths of this place is that we all chose to stand behind our words by using our real names. If trolls are allowed to create anonymous accounts in this way, I fear the clock is ticking…

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago

Vaccine passports are useless anyway. For a variant that evades the current vaccines, they are even more so. Vaccinating children should never happen, and it makes sense to put a hold on the boosters until they have been adapted to the new variant, if that is necessary.
None of this article makes sense. The scientific bits might do but the conclusions don’t follow logically.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago

The good news about the “o” is that will accelerate the process of acquiring natual immunity. This pandemic will end when we all get covid (something that will eventually happen. They just want to delay it as much as possible so they can keep milking it.

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
2 years ago

We are so far off-piste with this now.
When I lived in New Zealand in 2020 from the middle of the year we were doing genome sequencing to support the track and trace system. You could follow the thread of transmission with real confidence and a bi-product is we all learned or were reminded that viruses constantly mutate and supplant previous sequences.
Once this “world-beating” analysis was the province of the UK establishment, sequencing was weaponised and each one was defined as more communicable, why not before the autumn of 2020? The data reports themselves from Nervtag only gave a less than 50% probability of additional transmissibility out in the real world.
If we look back at each more “communicable” variant with hindsight two matters occur to me.
1) No one has translated this into behavioural science. If it’s more communicable do the sensible basic precautions of keeping my distance and not touching stop working? What more should we do?
2) The pattern of deaths sorry to bore everyone (92% plus 60 comorbid a handful of deaths under 60 healthy) remains entirely unchanged. Equally the seasonal changes for infection rates remains much the same (though the UK built herd immunity this summer, which tells us something which government prefer to ignore).
In a laboratory, the spike is technically more sticky but does that actually lead to more transmission or is incaution, fatigue and seasonal factors much more responsible for surges?
To my simple mind, nothing of significance is happening other than the mismanagement of this outbreak on an epic scale.
Two matters needed management.
1) The education and focus on the +60 comorbid.
2) The creation of fever hospitals/ hospices to deal with peaks staffed by the most healthy workers.
And the elephant in the room, an acceptance when a nasty new virus comes along, more of the vulnerable and old are going to die for several years a little earlier than they otherwise would. Governments should manage the deaths so the rest of us can take our chances in the way we do in a million different ways already.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michelle Johnston
Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
2 years ago

New versions are always “50% more transmissible”. No evidence, just sounds good.
From what I’ve noticed in real life, the Delta variant is not especially transmissible under any conditions except, perhaps, in the lab.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago

The new antivirals are highly effective and unaffected by mutations. Can someone explain why this isn’t the answer, as soon as enough doses can be manufactured and distributed?

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

There’s not enough money in non-vaccine solutions. They might be useful as an add-on or cross-sell revenue generator, but regular mandatory vaccines have always been the holy grail for big pharma, and hell will freeze over before they’ll kill the vaccine cash cow.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Plus it has now emerged following more study and the results of a longer clinical trial that the Merck pill is next to useless. At best a 30% reduction in severe disease, at the very real risk of same bad chromosomal mutations that may well lead to various malignancies 30-40 years down the road.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Thanks for your input on the Merck pill which was always going to be questionable, given the $1.2 billion given to them and Ridgeback by the US government for the development of the pill (and their ludicrous questioning of the safety of Ivermectin – tackle the efficacy if your must, not the safety).
I also have read the Pfizer anti-viral has the same action as Ivermectin. It is hard not to be a sceptic during this pandemic when so many ‘miraculous’ drugs that cost a fortune are brought to market and the very phrase ‘re-purposed drugs’ is laughed out of court and ridiculed. We all know that re-purposed drugs are a mainstay and widely used in medicine.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago

Any policy which merely slows transmission but does not stop it altogether (pretty much impractical) simply encourages mutations that evade the measures.
The greater transmissibility of delta (and probably now omicron) is a direct result of the daft “slow the transmission at all costs” policies. This comment applies to community wide lockdowns, masking, vaccination, and test & trace.
The bad news about increased transmissibility is that it make it more difficult to shield those truly vulnerable to a bad case of SARS-CoV-2. Vaccines, in particular could have been a liberation for the vulnerable, but not if the daft universal vaccination policy promotes premature obsolescence.
Pretty much all the reporting about Covid measures assumes that slowing the general spread of the virus is a desirable objective. I am telling you that the very opposite is true.
The only way out of the “emergency” has always been to allow the non-vulnerable population to encounter the virus and develop T-cell immunity as soon as possible.
We have wasted two years, huge amounts of treasure, ruined lives and livelihoods, and lost unnecessary lives, doing the exact opposite of rational policy. Time to make a face-saving declaration of “victory” and rescind all the extraordinary measures.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
2 years ago

Chivers is one of the few writers on UnHerd who I could do without. He’d be better off writing for the MSM.
“The pandemic should have taught us that acting early is usually better than acting late, and that preparing for worst-case scenarios is important.” – just one example of the ridiculous things he writes. It has taught me just the opposite, and has reminded me of one of the enduring rules of emergency medicine that I was taught as a resident, and now teach my students and residents: “Don’t just do something! Stand there!”. A directive to help us remember that physicians acting in haste, and out of a sense that they need to be SEEN to be “doing something”, often hurt or kill patients. So true of our pandemic response as well…

Bashar Mardini
Bashar Mardini
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

Its been a colossal failure of leadership. Our societies are designed to be run by functionaries and bureaucrats in a low risk setting. Once an element of risk was introduced, the whole thing went to pieces.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

School teacher pats Tom Chivers on head. Tom beams with joy.

Andy Ballard
Andy Ballard
2 years ago

Certainly, to avoid another lockdown Christmas, we need to act now.

Not sure why this is one of the concluding remarks, given that in the article itself it is acknowledged that we don’t really know much about it yet?
If it turns out to be not vaccine-resistant, why would we need to lockdown? If it is vaccine-resistant, we would presumably need to lockdown until a new vaccine is produced and rolled out – which we know means another year of this mess.
Is the logic that we will need to do a lockdown every time a new variant comes along? If the fear is that new variants escape vaccine protection, why would locking down to vaccinate even more people (or give more boosters) help?

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Andy Ballard

We really have to hope that the o variant, or the next highly transmissible one, is mild. That would put an end to this pandemic. Then we can sit back and wait for the next one 🙁

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

No we are not lucky that Omicron is a good fit for PCR tests, as long as we test huge numbers of asymptomatic people with super sensitive tests we just continue scaring ourselves with a species of false positive and then locking down for not adequate reason.

It is clear that the vaccines are useful but are not good enough for the role they are expected to play. We cannot keep shutting down the economy and creating vast sums of money to kid ourselves we can control this. We are creating the tinder for serious inflation and this cannot continue in the face of a virus only a little worse than a bad seasonal flu. It is nowhere near as dangerous as smallpox or plague or polio, it is one step above the 1957 Asian flu.

We need to focus on protecting the truly vulnerable and palliative treatments for everyone who develops symptoms, kick the public health bureaucrats to the side, and get on with life.

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago

“One scientist I spoke to suggested making antiviral meds available by post when people get a positive result: “They need to be given quickly to have a good effect, so you can’t rely on GP appointments.” Ivermectin and other early treatment options then? Drop that idea in, no further discussion, article moves on again to the same old tropes…this is just Daily Mail / Guardian / MSM quality of thinking.
Why is it still a radical idea to treat people early, heading into our 2nd winter of this? Actually we know why – because the contracts signed with pharma – prohibit any alternative treatments as the invalidate the EUA.
One day I hope there will be criminal trials of all who initiated and perpetuated this murderous and cunning wickedness.

Stephen Lodziak
Stephen Lodziak
2 years ago

“By happy chance, those missing letters are at one of three places that many PCR tests look at.”
Does that mean the PCR tests have likely missed tonnes of other variants that escape one of the three places? And if so, does that mean there are likely much more freaky variants than Omicron spreading among us undetected?

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephen Lodziak
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

I think a lot of full sequencing goes on as well, especially in the UK

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

Yes, it does. Also note: Tom believes simultaneously that the PCR tests are extremely precise, yet also, that they can detect variants. The normal test rule say you’re meant to only report a positive if all three genes are found. That’s why there are three of them, it’s what gives precision. But of course those rules have all been torn up.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

One scientist I spoke to suggested making antiviral meds available by post when people get a positive result: “They need to be given quickly to have a good effect, so you can’t rely on GP appointments. You need to link them to Track & Trace”.
This is the thing that has not been done in our country. Someone in Japan tried it with Ivermectin and brought the country with a very high curve down to nil. All he did was let Ivermectin in but now people are coming out with all sorts of theories about it instead of facing the fact that he let Ivermectin into the country and doctors can now proscribe it.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
2 years ago

Does no wonder why the news from Japan gets supressed? 126 million ageing population and an excellent health care system, high vaccine penetration, economy number 4 in the world, and yet in the month of August the cases rose exponentially. The head of National Healthy Authority admitted he was at wits end, but he referred to certain African countries where riverblindness was rife. Those countries have no Covid-19 cases. Since that date Japanese doctors are free to prescribe their medications and Japanese are free to order what they want in India. Number of deaths on November 22, 2021: nil. John Campbell explains how Google supresses this news. How fake news is promoted to deny the Japanese situation. Forget about variants. The cure is now in the open. Any government denying this, commits a crime against humanity.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago

Your points are a huge generalisation.. Guess debating with you is useless.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

There is one part I don’t understand. We’ve had virus vaccinations since the 19th century – and as a result, a lot of deadly viruses have been rendered harmless and polio eliminated – or so I was led to understand. I was given a BCG. My kids had the MMR etc – and that was that.

Unless this Corona-19 virus actually WAS weaponised in Wuhan, why can’t we get a similar handle on this one?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Alas, all viruses are not created equal. Corona viruses are hard, in part because they target the respiratory system.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-04-17/coronavirus-vaccine-ian-frazer/12146616
outlines some of the problems.

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

Enough already!

David Simpson
David Simpson
2 years ago

Is this your position or “ours”? Btw it’s definitely mine.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago

You must have subscribed to be able to comment. Get back in your own bubble if you don’t like it.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Oddly enough the articles are worth the subscription and the comments are hilarious. So what’s not to like ?
Aris Roussinos is excellent IMHO

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Blinde
stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie Blinde

I can recommend the Herald Scotland as an excellent platform for making comments. You don’t have to be Scottish and many of the articles are wind-ups for both Scots and others. The comments however border on the toxic.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

The solution is clear and has been clear from the very beginning. In the world of risk management the first option is to isolate the hazard (keep the hazard away from people) but clearly, to do that is utterly impossible.. yet that’s what all the govts have done because to do the smart thing is not politically acceptable!
The 2nd option (the ONLY option in this case) is to isolate those at risk (keep the vulnerable away from the virus!) This, in essence is what the Great Barrington Declaration suggested (not in detail: that, they said was for govt to decide!) But why not say it straight out? Same reason. Unacceptable!
So instead we have had the most unacceptable non-solutions and why? Cowardice on the part of those with the knowledge (scientists) and among the decision makers (politicians)…
What IS the solution then you may ask? I will tell you but you will immediately dismiss it because you won’t accept it either: even though it is the only viable and easily the best solution.. ready?
Retirement villages (RVs) or rather Refuge villages.. we already have them and people clamber to get into them and wish they could afford them. But you will change their name to concentration camps won’t you? Yeah you will!
So… here’s how it works and it’s win, win and more win!
Commandeer and construct isolated (away from towns and cities) RVs. Log cabiins spring to mind: quick, cheap, comfortable. They will need to be ring-fenced to keep all others out: Residents can leave any time they like. The fence will need to be patrolled. Getting in to be via strictest quarantine at the periphery. No one gets in otherwise. Glass partitioned visiting rooms also at the periphery.
No restrictions operate once inside! Everyone lives normally: pub: cafe: hot tub etc etc run by residents (out of retirement): ditto for doctors nurses physios psyches etc.. So, holiday camp: no restrictions! Cabins purchased/rented from proceeds/letting of their town and city homes (with lots left over! Zero vost long-term to govt). Housing crises solved overnight! Crimes against the elderly zero: no awful noise/music etc!
Those outside, back in the towns and cities also have no restrictions! Win, win! Herd immunity is achieved there, safely in no time: kids go to school! Productive people work: young people live, laugh and love like normal! Homelessness down to zero (20% of homes emptied with the vulnerable away in their cosy RVs).
The cost? A tiny fraction of current costs. Attendant medical and mental problems? Less by far than even pre-Covid levels.
Is it all super wonderful with no downside? Not quite: less inter generational family contact: how good is it now? How good was it pre-Covid?
Remember: all vulnerable (elderly and health compromised) INVITED to come: no obligation! If they want to stay in town and die, fine! Just don’t expect others to save you when you’ve eschewed the opportunity to live: on a pernanent holiday, in nice natural surroundings with all the facilites with all your mates doing all the things you love to do.
Naw: that’d never work! No one wants that! Far better to have lockdown, social disorder, mental health problems, overstrained health system: shortage of ICUs, millions of deaths: ruined economies: riots in the street: yeah! Much better solution!

heidi herrmann
heidi herrmann
2 years ago

The only palatable thing about this article is the title. The rest is dubious and disappointing.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Oh My Dear
Oh My Gad!
Oh Mi-cron,
Hon!
Li-Li-Li
Life goes on

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
2 years ago

I appreciate much of what Tom writes and certainly don’t think he should be silenced or cancelled. But please, UnHerd, can you get a scientist to put an alternative view on Covid from time to time rather than relying on Tom whose views, as many others have pointed out, seem to me to be very partial and blinkered.

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
2 years ago

All this testing for variants might be ever so interesting for nerd scientists but it is leading us down the wrong path.
We’ve never done so much for flu. The scientists look for variants to help develop traditional vaccines but don’t make a fear narrative out of the interesting information – so why not? Because it would be a nonsense.

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
2 years ago

Am I right in believing that cases of B.1.1.529 in Africa were double vaccinated?
So, don’t blame the unvaxxed who probably have plenty of proper, natural immunity. In fact don’t blame anything but the natural tendency for viruses to mutate. The flu regularly mutates but we accept that and “guess” which variant to tackle with the flu vaccine.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

It’s like chess, says Beale: “You play your moves in the most flexible order.” If we assume it’ll all be OK, we might be right, but if we’re wrong, we’ll end up with Omicron spreading all over the place. Whereas if we assume it’ll be pretty bad, we can always open up again later on.
People get paid for this advice? If you don’t go out you won’t get run over. Thanks, never thought of that.