The Omicron variant has fueled a global Covid-19 surge, but some suggest the pandemic is taking on less-dangerous shape: that Omicron portends Covid-19’s evolution into something more akin to the common cold or flu, especially for the vaccinated and those who’ve already gotten sick and recovered.
That’s the hope offered by Christian Drosten of the German Center for Infection Research, who directs virology research at Charité university hospital in Berlin. “Drosten attests to Omicron’s ‘enormous contagiousness,’” Marco Evers writes in a Der Spiegel analysis piece. “But he also says it’s possible that the variant will cause a milder progression of the disease … Omicron, he says, has the potential to become the first ‘post-pandemic’ version of the virus.” University of Bremen epidemiology professor Hajo Zeeb suggests to Evers much the same, proposing Covid-19 could develop into a milder and less-dangerous—albeit permanent—presence in society as soon as 2022. (Zeeb’s prediction is on the optimistic end of experts’ views, Evers notes.)
Given that Omicron is apparently causing less-severe illness in the vaccinated and boosted, it has already changed American experts’ thinking, The Economist writes: “After nearly two years of prioritising individual risk-mitigation and avoiding infection over societal disruption, American health experts are beginning to lighten up. ‘This is a very different virus than the one that we saw earlier on in the pandemic,’ explains Leana Wen, former health commissioner of Baltimore. ‘The risk to most [vaccinated] individuals right now of Omicron is very low. The risk that Omicron is causing society in terms of widespread dysfunction is very high.’ The pandemic has seemingly hit a turning-point.”
A Test for China
Omicron has threatened countries around the world, but Howard W. French writes for the World Politics Review that China is a special—and especially vulnerable—case.
“[O]micron almost seems specifically designed to test China in ways the pandemic has never tested it before,” French writes. China has pursued a so-called zero-Covid strategy of stringent lockdowns, sometimes applied to cities of millions after small outbreaks. What’s more, China’s leading domestically produced vaccine is not effective at preventing Omicron infection even after three doses, according to a recent study.
For China, it’s a perfect storm. “The Chinese public is practically a virgin field where omicron is concerned. Beijing’s success in containing the spread of previous variants means that virtually no one in China has natural immunity to any version of the coronavirus,” French writes.
Interest Rates and Election Worries: Turkey’s Future Under Erdoğan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned heads at home and abroad by supporting interest-rate cuts even amid rising inflation, in a bid to keep Turkey’s economy stimulated. At Project Syndicate, Şebnem Kalemli-Özcan details the alternative economic theory being tried out, but hopes are low that it will work. The lira’s value has plummeted, but instead of turning back, Erdoğan last month announced a “peculiar scheme” to compensate investors for keeping their money in Turkey’s currency and to cover losses, The Economist notes; taxpayers, the magazine suggests, could ultimately be left on the hook.
The swinging currency value has raised questions about Erdoğan’s political standing, which in turn have prompted concerns about Turkey’s future: At Foreign Affairs, Soner Cagaptay wonders if Erdoğan might lose reelection in 2023, seek to overturn the results, and put the country into crisis.
The Damage of Jan. 6
As tomorrow’s anniversary of the Jan. 6 US Capitol storming approaches, opinion pages have been flooded with analysis of its aftermath. At The New York Times, political theorist Francis Fukuyama writes that in one day, immense damage was done to America’s global image—and to democracy’s.
“Over the years, authoritarian leaders … have sought to manipulate election results and deny popular will,” Fukuyama writes. “Conversely, losing candidates in elections in new democracies have often charged voter fraud in the face of largely free and fair elections. … Before Jan. 6, these kinds of antics would have been seen as the behavior of young and incompletely consolidated democracies, and the United States would have wagged its finger in condemnation. But it has now happened in the United States itself. America’s credibility in upholding a model of good democratic practice has been shredded. … Jan. 6 sealed and deepened the country’s divisions, and for that reason it will have consequences echoing across the globe in the years to come.”
Pandemic Dispersion Continues
Cities seem to have bounced back from Covid-19’s initial onslaught, but The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board notes that data from United Van Lines shows still more people leaving America’s “coasts and Great Lakes in favor of less dense, more affordable climes.” To the right-leaning paper, it’s a rebuke to “high-tax, ill-governed states.”