The Xi variant, more commonly known as Omicron (there being no such adverb as ‘cowardlyLY’ in the English language yet to describe the relevant verb in this context, ‘cowardly’ itself being an adjective, and I have already sought to make ‘Roxy’ my contribution to the English language this month) seems to be going forward at a rapid pace.
As I observed yesterday, it looks like reaching a million cases by next Tuesday and will probably infect everyone in Australia by the end of February. For the first time during this pandemic, people that I know personally are infected with this plague, both colleagues and family friends.
What does this mean for us going forward in the coming weeks?
Aside from restrictions starting to get reimposed in Victoria and NSW (and hopefully those stay minor), there are a few subtle and unwelcome changes to the society we had before the pandemic started.
Let us count the ways.
First, people seem a lot more apprehensive than they did even as recently as eight months ago. The recent infection numbers are definitely causing the numbers of people frequenting shopping centres and other public places to visibly drop, even though the main restriction currently in place to deter people is the constant QR code scanning (something which does turn me off from going into a shop to browse).
Second, interest in travelling interstate or overseas has dropped. Nor are people that keen on intrastate travel, given the current pandemic infection rates. After all the border closures, lockdowns and ‘rings of steel’, there is no trust that anyone will be able to take a holiday away from home and be able to either reach their destination safely or return according to plan.
Third, shortages, shortages, shortages. This time, infections and isolations amongst logistics staff (ie truck drivers) mean that goods are not getting delivered. On top of this, infections and isolations amongst supermarket staff mean that there is no one there to stock the shelves or to serve you at the check out. And staff shortages mean that restaurants and bars and cafes, even if they want to reopen, are going to find it hard. There were shortages of bread and meat in the supermarket this morning. I did not bother looking for toilet paper because I do not need to stock up – I have a 2 year supply.
For the first time, the number of people who are infected in Australia has reached significant numbers, despite the number of people fully vaccinated. This is going to bite, and we know too little about the Xi variant so far to trust that it is going to be mild.
Large numbers of people are going to isolate and stay away from their jobs and out of society in the coming weeks, and running the essential parts of the economy like grocery retail and health services is going to be very challenging without people at their places of business.