Monday, May 20, 2024 | Dhu al-Qaadah 11, 1445 H
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We need to guard ourselves...


It’s fear and anxiety everywhere. Nearly two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed more than five million lives around the world, countries are again on a high alert!

Panic has pummelled stock markets and crude oil fell amid uncertainties about what the new bans would do to the global travel industry. And gold started glittering again as frightened investors are seeking refuge in the yellow metal thanks to its safe-haven appeal.

While governments around the world are scrambling to protect their citizens from a potential outbreak of the newly identified coronavirus variant Omicron, its emergence has led to high-level government meetings to chalk out action plans.

As usual, pharmaceutical giants have started working on strain-specific vaccines just in case!

The Sultanate of Oman is one among the first countries to respond to the alarm. It suspended entry to travellers from seven African countries which were reported to have cases of the new variant.

Many of its citizens and residents cut short their trips as it played a spoilsport during the extended weekend holidays!

Just two days after the new variant was detected, the World Health Organization officially proclaimed it as a “variant of concern’’, as it falls in the most serious category and the first since the Delta variant, which emerged a year ago.

Researchers are now on their toes to find out if the new variant will circumvent the immune protection left behind by Covid-19 vaccines, or evade immune-focused treatments. They are also trying to determine whether it is more contagious and it could cause more severe diseases.

No doubt, there is a lot of news to process, and it comes without a lot of baseline knowledge about the virus itself.

A report quoting Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19 said: “Right now there are many studies that are under way... so far there’s little information but those studies are under way so we need researchers to have the time to carry those out...”

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of variants have emerged. Yet the underlying apprehension about new variants, whenever they emerged, has been whether they would imperil the efforts against the pandemic spread or whether they would limit the effectiveness of vaccines.

While vaccination is expected to provide a great deal of protection, experts still suggest physical barriers as a shield against any mutant virus. For this, they again moot the use of masks, good hygiene including hand washing, physical distancing and good ventilation. This means we need to be our own guards!

But how many of us are using masks and maintaining physical distancing? If reports are to be believed, there are still millions of people in the world who have not taken even the first dose of the vaccine!

If the vaccine is not in the reach of many in the Third World and poor

nations due to lack of access, it’s the intractable and recalcitrant attitude supported by conventional and conservative distrust that deter several others from taking it.

And what the world failed to address is the fact that a fragile health system in one country, as has happened with the current Omicron, can potentially expose the world to a global health catastrophe as is the current situation.

For this, we must address the root cause of health insecurity, that is, the lack of access of the most vulnerable people to essential health services. Ultimately, it’s the absence of universal health coverage that is the greatest threat to health security!

The reality is that at least half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services!

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