Ushering in the New Year, with our fingers crossed!
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Ushering in the New Year, with our fingers crossed!

January 2, 2022

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

The agonising year that we all desperately longed to cast away has finally come to an end! And we have all stepped into a brand new one and, understandably, all of us across the world, are doing it with our fingers crossed.

We could not have done it any other way, considering the fact that with the emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19, the change of guard from 2020 to 2021 was only what could be called the proverbial ‘jump from the frying pan into the fire’ that the minuscule, invisible virus had lit across the globe!

Moreover, because of the many restrictions imposed especially in our State, almost all of us who have been traditional New Year revellers have almost completely missed welcoming it as we used to, with our fun-filled, night-long celebrations. But the few very fearless and resourceful ones amongst us, who could afford to do it, decided to fly to more liberal locales outside the State and bring home the New Year from there!

But I did not miss out on anything because I have never celebrated the arrival of any new year or even made any new year resolutions over all the years of my life. That way I can also proudly say that I have never ever broken any New Year resolutions! My wife and I spent the last few hours of the last year, leisurely browsing at a book shop and both of us picked up a book each which is one of the many small things that make us most happy!

With my age-old habit of writing the date and place of its purchase on the last page of every book that I acquire, these two books will now become the last reminders for us of the year that has gone by. But the two of us acquired an additional treasure on that day when the manager of the book shop decided to click a picture of the two of us together in our favourite habitat!

Now, irrespective of how we welcomed it, let us all hope and pray that this year is going to be better than the two tumultuous years that have gone by, taking away in their turbulent wake, many of our loved ones. Yes, I don’t think that there is any family in this world that has not lost some friend or relative, far or near, which is indeed very sad. 

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But I personally think that this year, the Omicron variant notwithstanding, can be made relatively pain-free, provided we learn from every one of our past mistakes and continue to follow what governments across the world now call ‘Covid Appropriate Behaviour’ or ‘CAB’ for short. Sticking to this newly coined phrase in letter and spirit, as if we are sticking to dear life itself, is the only way we can ensure that this year is going to go down our memories as being better than the past two years.

Although the many kinds of vaccines that we now have, seem to have slowed if not completely stalled the progress of the pandemic and also taken away to a reassuring degree, the severity in its bite, they certainly do not seem like the magic bullet that is going to kill it for good. Hopefully, such a remedy will come but it is still not on the horizon considering the fact that the virus seems to be quicker at changing its faces and garments than we are at changing the ambit and abilities of our vaccines!

But more than what we can do to beat it, the variants of the virus itself may do it for us very soon, going by what we are observing in the behaviour of its newest variant. Omicron which was what we were told to fear most because of its much augmented and  extremely high infectivity. It does not seem to be such a bad boy after all, going by the fact that it is not doing the kind of damage that its predecessor Delta did. Thankfully, most patients infected by this new strain seem to be recovering uneventfully without much mortality or even morbidity.

As things stand today, our own State has recorded only two deaths from among the nearly seventy Omicron cases that have been identified here to date and only one of these two deaths has been definitively ascribed to the Covid virus. Although Omicron cases have been showing a steady upswing across the world ever since the variant first surfaced in Africa, the morbidity statistics have not been changing much. It is a scientific fact that all microbes and viruses in particular, keep evolving continuously and thus show mutations which may be both more or less potent.

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But thankfully, this transformation, as a rule, is usually from more to less potent rather than the other way around. So, the new variant although more infective, may in fact turn out to be less potent and therefore less lethal than its predecessor. The immunity conferred by our vaccines and our now nearly two-year-long exposure to the virus, may also be the reason why we are seeing a dip both in the incidence and the severity of Covid cases.

Now, let me tell you another very interesting and intriguing fact but I am doing so with the explicit warning that it should not lead you to let your guard down! The whole mechanism of vaccinating lies in exposing the host to less potent and less lethal strains of the culprit organism and thus stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against it naturally. So, if the potency of the new Omicron variant proves in the long run to be much lesser than the original strain, getting infected by it may even act as a kind of natural vaccination that is going to impart herd immunity and make us all more immune to Covid-19 itself!

Let us all hope that it happens and if it does, it will perhaps make Covid only a distant memory like that of the many plagues that have come and gone over the centuries. That may be the silver lining that I am seeing in the dark cloud of dread and despair that is still hovering over us!

So, let’s go ahead and have a great new year!

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