log: and in wanders omicron and out goes phase one

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: PHASE 1: LEVEL 4: 79.2%: 736(+3): 34 -3,739: 83 %–80.2 %

Phase 1 of Korea’s Living With Covid strategy has reached its end. We have not entered into Phase 2. We’re back to Level 4. Time has turned backwards. Soon, it will be inside out. We now live upside down.

Even before the arrival of Omicron, the situation was bad. The whole thing was rapidly spiraling out of control. By the numbers, the counting stats like daily cases, critical cases, and deaths are through the roof. Death rates are also increasing. There’s not really a single area of improvement. Vaccines are still effective but having hit 80%, uptake has slowed.

Boosters are on the way. Pretty soon, it will be three shots to be considered fully vaccinated. The vaccination passports will expire after 6 months.

At the start of Phase 1, we were told to expect about 5000 new daily cases. But, the idea was that vaccination should allow the critical cases to stay below 500. Well, we got the over 5000 new daily cases part. Problem is, the critical cases are well over expectations. There’s currently over 700.

Why should this be? Much of the problem might be related to the slow vaccine rollout combined with DELTA. In that plan, the most vulnerable were vaccinated first. It ended up timed so that their vaccinations decreased in efficacy at the very moment enough people were vaccinated to reopen. Meaning, basically, the first became the last?

It all ended up backwards, upside down, etc.

Anyway, the hospitals are on the verge of being overrun, we’re no longer Living With Covid and back to Living With Restrictions, and, well, reopening has all gone to total shit, basically.

And in wanders Omicron.

As long as global vaccination rates remain low and vaccine apartheid continues, new variants will continue to be produced. Like, that’s predictable. The WHO has been warning everyone about this shit for a long time now. Back in August, Nature said about boosters:

Choosing an unknown but potentially incremental benefit for a person in a wealthy country over a massive, life-saving one for a person elsewhere in the world is a losing strategy, because new variants will inevitably arise in places where the spread of COVID-19 continues unabated.

Shortly after the emergence of Omicron, in The Guardian, Dr Ayoade Alakija, a co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said:

“I am so angry right now. Even if the moral argument didn’t work for them, if we had lost sight of our common morality, and common humanity, then even from an enlightened self-interest perspective, surely, surely, they understood that if they did not vax the world as equitably and as quickly as possible, that what we were going to see was variants springing up that we don’t know whether we’re going to be able to control.”

Needless to say, I’m pretty angry too. Not just with the moral and pragmatic failure here, nor with the doubling down on ridiculous measures like border closures and travel bans — approaches that have already failed so well. And not just with the confluence of shitty approaches, confused thinking, racist politics, and disaster capitalisms, that are building more moats between the rich world and the the rest of the world at the exact moment when we should be recognizing our common interest, working together, and helping each other out, but also with just pretty minor shit too.

A minor thing that bugs me: It seems possible that Omicron is less virulent. I hope that it is. We don’t know enough yet to say. Therefore, caution is warranted. But I have seen people say that diseases tend to grow less virulent. They claim that it doesn’t make evolutionary sense for a disease to kill its host so diseases become less deadly. That’s a nice and reassuring claim and it even seems to make sense. The problem? IT IS NOT FUCKING TRUE! Or, rather it sort of is true, but it’s all pretty complicated, and it does not fucking apply in this case. Not at these population densities, and not with a novel zoonotic disease.

It’s like this. Let’s say, a disease is really virulent. Kills like 90% of infected people within 24 hours — spreading rapidly as it does so because that’s part of virulence. A disease like that can burn itself out in situations were you have small isolated populations. Basically, if it’s a two week walk to get to the next village, every carrier is dead or recovered before they can meet another person and spread the disease. Plus, being on a deathbed reduces movement. In that situation, sure, evolution favors less virulent diseases. And because that’s how humans lived for so long, that’s how many of our common viruses act.

That’s not the world we live in. In the world we live in, even a thing like Ebola, which is incredibly virulent and kills incredibly fast, if found in a place like Hong Kong, is going to kill A LOT of people, and spread all over the world really fast. It doesn’t need to evolve towards less virulent strains. The virulent model will work just fine in high densities.

Now, it is possible that Omicron is less virulent. And it’s always possible that less or more virulent strains will be produced. But that’s basically just a roll of the dice and the more times that dice is rolled, the higher the chances of either or both results become. Just don’t think for one goddamn second that evolution is on your side. It’s not. And the sooner and better that we can slow replication through measures like vaccination, the more we slow evolution, the better our chances are. We do not want this shit to evolve. We want it dead.

So, yeah, hearing shit like that bugs me. It’s just one of those little pieces of misinformation that gets passed around. On the surface, it seems to make sense. But it’s still wrong.

Aside from all that . . .

Been in a fairly good mood lately. During the brief Phase 1, it was nice to get out. It let me practice my Korean a little more than I’ve been able to. I’m really not all that sure what will happen now. Like, the gym? It’s already requires proof of vaccination and I go during the day when it’s empty. Should I stop? Will it be shut down? I guess restaurants are basically going to have to wait. It was nice not having to think about all this for a bit.

I’m enjoying the new instagram. In terms of sorta daily diary entries, if that’s your thing, and things about clothes, that’s probably where those sorts of posts are going to be now. They’ll be in Korean, so you’ll have to suffer through my terrible Korean and Instagram’s even worse translations but there’ll be pictures. We all like pictures! Or so I’m told.

And doing this is really helping my writing and reading of Korean — though it’s a lot of work. Like, it takes me ages and a lot of help to write most of those captions and, if I’m lucky, I retain a couple words or a couple of grammatical rules. But I do retain something. Doing it in public also makes it stick better. Probably because there’s consequences.

It’s also nice to be able to sort of say things that I can’t say at talking speeds. Learning a new language obliterates one’s personality, so it’s nice to be able to take some time, work slowly, and kind of better introduce myself to the neighborhood. And it even seems to be going well. I just have to try to keep it sorta sane and, well, we should be good.

4 thoughts on “log: and in wanders omicron and out goes phase one

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