It’s still too early to tell whether omicron will “go out with a whimper” or cause another devastating wave of deaths, says Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic. But whatever happens, we have reached a turning point in the way we feel about the pandemic. Ever since the coronavirus emerged, there has been fierce disagreement over the need for measures such as social distancing and lockdowns. Yet “the field of battle has shifted”. And now, despite “skyrocketing caseloads”, few pundits or politicians are proposing strict measures. The appetite simply isn’t there. “We have quietly decided to throw up our hands.”
This “determination to get on with our lives is deeply and perhaps unchangeably human”. Growing up, I couldn’t understand how residents of dangerous places like Baghdad or Tel Aviv would effectively risk their lives to go out shopping or meet friends for a coffee. The truth is, people always adapt. Scientists have various criteria for determining when a pandemic is technically over, but a useful “social-scientific marker” is when the public has simply got used to living with the presence of a pathogen. By that yardstick, the “half-hearted response” to omicron surely marks the beginning of the end.
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