The Omicron infection could mark the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and mark the beginning of an endemic, scientists have said.
Early research suggests that Omicron infection may provide ‘super immunity’ against future coronavirus strains, although experts warn that COVID-19 is still unpredictable.
The Covid 19 pandemic has already claimed the lives of more than 5.5 million people globally.
The highly contagious omicron and delta variations are accountable for the daily infection numbers that are increasing exponentially.
Omicron is becoming the dominant type in many parts of the world, including Africa.
It was initially found and reported in South Africa.
Despite the large number of infections, a South African investigation found that mortality hasn’t increased statistically considerably when compared to prior variations.
The behavior of the omicron form, according to South African virologist Wolfgang Preiser, gives hope that the pandemic could become endemic.
However, he stressed that it could only be done if the majority of the population has developed primary immunity as a result of a past infection or vaccine.
“I still hope we can get around regular booster shots,” Preiser said.
“If another variant doesn’t come as a nasty surprise, then we can keep our immunity up by natural means via regular reinfections with the coronavirus,” Preiser added.
The omicron variant’s relatively mild infections have proven to be great news for African countries where infections have been on the rise, as well as giving experts optimism for a possible end to the pandemic.
“This is very good news,” the Ghanaian epidemiologist, Fred Binka, told DW. “Viruses have two major characteristics: they have virulence, and they also have transmission capabilities.”
“They either mutate and gain strength in the transmissibility or their virulence,” Binka said. “So, when they become very transmissible, you have the lower virulence.”
Binka added, “It is obvious that the pandemic is coming to an end, the virus has now established itself, and it will be endemic and be here forever.”
He predicted that COVID-19 will become a typical disease “that we can live with and treat.”
Mild infections, according to the World Health Organization, do not mean that the world is yet free of risk.
The pandemic, according to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is far from done. “On average, Omicron infection is less severe,” Tedros added, “but the idea that it is a benign condition is false.”