We all need a boost with arrival of Omicron

The arrival in the UK last week of the new Omicron Covid variant brings to mind the growing fear of early 2020.

A medical staff member prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre in Paris. France made Covid-19 booster shots available to all adults on November 25. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP) (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
A medical staff member prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre in Paris. France made Covid-19 booster shots available to all adults on November 25. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP) (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

At first coronavirus felt too distant to be a major cause for concern, but as cases were reported ever closer to home the sense of dread became more palpable.

With four weeks to Christmas, Omicron has now reached our shores and all we can do is mitigate against it.

But there the parallels with March 2020 end. We have physical resistance thanks to vaccines and antibodies, but we also have resitance in terms of attitudes towards restrictions imposed on daily life in the name of public health.

The success of the vaccination programme has helped drive down deaths and hospital admissions, despite high case numbers.

In spring last year few people questioned why they should wear a mask in public and stay at home as much as possible.

Nearly two years on people feel very jaded or, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently put it, “skunnered”.

Restrictions are generally not being adhered to as strictly as they once were. Indeed, many people seem to have lost track of what they are. Ms Sturgeon may choose to tighten restrictions in Scotland when she updates MSPs tomorrow. In England the reintroduction of mandatory face coverings is proving contentious enough.

If rules are changed to prohibit households mixing over Christmas there is a risk they will be largely ignored.

Perhaps mindful of this, Professor Linda Bauld has proposed an acceleration of the booster programme.

The public health expert, who is a senior adviser to the Scottish Government, suggested third doses should be offered to all adults and administered sooner than is currently the case.

She said: “Israel and other countries are just boosting all adults, it’s not age stratified. You start with the most vulnerable but then you boost all adults who are eligible. That may be what happens here and we will at least go down to the 30s, probably below.”

As resistance to restrictions grows we are likely to become increasingly reliant on science and the physical resistance if offers to counter this variant and others to come.