Covid has not gone away – it has merely changed its clothes. And it may very well slip around for yet another unwelcome big visit in the weeks to come.
But all across the EU the new strategy is beginning to look like, “Let’s just hope the worst plague has left these parts.”
Omicron sub-variants are fuelling a rise in Covid hospitalisations across Europe, most notably in Portugal, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Scientists are still unsure whether this is because these variants are more transmissible or because immunity from vaccines is waning.
The really bad news here is that we are in the summer time – whatever we might think of the vagaries of the Irish summer.
Across the European Union’s 27 member state capitals, fretful health officials are looking at the current trends and shuddering at the thought of how things could be when November’s chilly winds begin to blow.
Earlier this month the World Health Organisation reflected a growing view among scientific experts that the Covid virus will continue to evolve. Current summer trends – with a relatively high spike in numbers, even as people are out of doors – make many health officials brace themselves for what this coming winter might bring in terms of Covid.
New horrors could well be compounded by flu and other more familiar winter health affliction phenomena. Depending on how you count these epidemic waves, we could be looking at number five – or even number six.
Most EU countries have wound down what were really tough Covid restrictions quite some time ago. And when journalists pose questions about plans if a “Son of Covid” stalks the lands again, the responses are rather coy.
No citizen wants another gloomy winter of closed bars and restaurants, no sports, and few if any other recreations. Even fewer politicians want to offer any advance on that little bundle of joy.
So, understandably, across the EU nobody is keen to be seen as going out to meet Covid trouble on its way in.
The quietly emerging view among Brussels officials is that – even if Son of Covid does its worst – we are not looking at another lockdown. Officials point to emerging science which strongly, but not definitively, suggests the new strains are less threatening.
Research suggests the newest variants can bypass vaccines and supposed immunity from previous infections. But the obverse side of that coin is that such new variants appear less threatening.
People will be ill – but less likely to die.
Meanwhile, more senior policymakers point to the success of the vaccine roll-out, driven by EU research funding and eventual coordination across the member states.
For now, at least, whatever EU planning may be going on is being kept under wraps.