By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Emergency Medicine Specialist
I believe that we have reached the peak of the Omicron wave which is accounting for record numbers of infections in Guyana. However, we are coping with the wave so far and should be able to get past this sooner than previous waves. After looking at the data from previous waves, the pathogenesis of Omicron, and the experiences of countries with earlier exposures, I will share my thoughts with you on how things may pan out for us locally with the omicron wave.
Number of infected persons
I do believe our numbers are peaking and this may continue untill the end of January. Region 4 should start to see a drop in numbers within the next week or so while most of the other regions will peak in the coming week. As we enter February, the numbers of infections should start to descend and I hope we should see the end of the wave by the end of February. This may signal the end for the pandemic but COVID-19 may remain with us for the foreseeable future with a presentation similar to the common cold.
The average incubation period for Omicron is two days which is far shorter than previous variants that were averaging around five days. This means that on average, you can have COVID-19, two days after getting exposed to Omicron. While data is not currently available on how much shorter the symptoms from Omicron last, anecdotal evidence is showing that an infection with Omicron lasts for a shorter period than other variants. The symptoms are less severe and mostly mimic that of an upper respiratory tract infection. Previous variants targeted the lower respiratory tract (lungs) more and therefore, caused a more severe form of the disease. However, Omicron is infecting larger numbers and is causing deaths especially in patients that have other concurrent acute illnesses. Normally, a patient that comes with a heart attack will have a decent chance of survival with efficient care. Now, because Omicron is infecting so many at once, that patient with the heart attack will have a high chance of being infected with Omicron at the same time and therefore has a higher chance of dying.
Hospitalisation and deaths
While Omicron is the most infectious variant thus far, it is not as deadly as previous variants but is causing high hospitalisation rates because of the sheer number of infected persons at once. The number of COVID-19 hospitalisations has risen sharply in the past week and this coming week we will be tested with more patients requiring hospitalisations. I believe the worst case scenario will result in systemic overcrowding of hospitals and the need for more beds to be allocated for COVID-19 patients. Best case scenario is that the system reaches its capacity but manages through the wave without becoming overcrowded. In either case, I believe we will manage to get through the wave given its shorter duration. While there will be deaths, it should not reach the numbers of the Delta wave since Omicron is showing to be less severe and less deadly.
Should we go into a lockdown?
Omicron is the most infectious virus in the world. We will not escape it! Going into lockdown will only delay the inevitable; we have to face Omicron one way or the other. A lockdown will not decrease cases as Omicron thrives in the indoor setting and with most being indoors during a lockdown, this will only add fuel to the Omicron wave and we may see an even faster rise in cases.
My projections are based on the available science and may turn out to be inaccurate but I am pretty confident in the data and I am optimistic that we will get past this and finally get to experience some semblance of normalcy in 2022.
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