External comments: This is a debate article. Analysis and position are the writer’s own.
Epidemiologists around the world have turned to the UK and Denmark, the two countries that sequence enough to make relatively good estimates based on results from there.
In some countries, the omicron has quickly gained ground, and it is estimated that the number of omicron infected reach doubles every other day , as Camilla Stoltenberg also said at the press conference on Monday. New calculations for London suggest possible shorter doubling time than this, all the way down to 1.6 days.
We have reached 1500 registered omicron cases in Norway. Denmark has 6000. Denmark both tests and sequences much more in Norway, and it is reasonable to assume that the actual number of infected is about as high in Norway. Denmark reported about 150 new omicron infections in one day three days ago. If we do not manage to curb the infection, we will have a doubling in the number of new infections every other day in the future.
Doubling 150 cases means we may have had 300 new cases yesterday. Then it will be 600 tomorrow, 1200 in three days, 2400 in five days and 4800 in a week. Then it starts to go faster.
Two days later, the number must be doubled again, to 9600, then 19,200, 38,400, and after 15 this gives 76,800 new cases of infection every single day. And if you do not stop, it continues with further expansion even after that.
These numbers shows what a huge threat omikron is and how important it is to get control of the infection well before we are at these high levels. Norway has introduced more measures now, but it is uncertain to what extent the measures will slow down the infection. As the virus is so extremely contagious, and we continue to allow the spread of infection in many settings, and have not introduced good measures to prevent airborne infection, it is in my view unrealistic to believe that today’s measures in Norway are enough to slow this down sufficiently.
If we wait and see how the development will be, measures can therefore be sent to be able to prevent catastrophic consequences. As is well known, it is often a couple of weeks from the time you become infected until the post.
If we wait until the hospitals are full of omicron patients to tighten, about 100 times more will have managed to get infected in the two weeks that have passed in the meantime. With a virus that spreads so fast, the probability that most people who need help will not get it will be very high if you do not act resolutely and early.
Here we are depending on the consequence of what the models tell us and be at the forefront, we must have the hope of avoiding disaster. It is an educational challenge, because most people probably have some understanding of the phenomenon of exponential growth. But without such insight, it will be difficult to understand the incomprehensible in how great a threat omikron can pose. The numbers above can hopefully be helpful in this way.
Omikron has a mutation that makes the virus bind more easily to our cells. You can therefore become infected even if you are exposed to fewer virus articles. In addition, omicron patients are reported to secrete more viruses. Omikron bypasses much of the protection from undergone infection, and the effectiveness of the vaccines has gone down.
All this probably contributes to the fact that infectivity increases so drastically. Figures from the UK show that the risk of household members being infected with omikron is tripled compared to previous variants. Facing a virus with properties will work against airborne infection will be essential.
Good ventilation is important. It has been shown that more people are infected in poorly ventilated classrooms. Air purifiers are also shown to be effective remove virus articles from the air. Good masks of type FFP2 / FFP3 will be very important in the future. Ordinary surgical face masks are less effective, although they are better than no protection.
In addition, we see that properties of the virus make it a «superspreder virus». It is important to reduce the risk of such actions. No one can answer how much it takes to get control of the infection. In South Africa it is summer. We in the north are at the front, along with the rest of Europe.
Omikron will hit large parts of the world almost simultaneously. It will be a difficult challenge, whether the variant should prove to cause milder diseases or not, and is also likely to have major consequences for the world economy. We should plan for possible breakdowns in supply chains.
To complicate the picture, the number of Delta cases has also continued to rise in London, though the number of omicron cases increases so rapidly. Thus, London currently has parallel, growing epidemics: a delta epidemic, and a new, fast-growing omicron epidemic.
About this continues we have a whole new situation. It is too early to say how this will develop in the future.
Norway has good experience with how many you can gain from dealing resolutely, early. From other countries, we have stated that the cost of acting too late in the event of rapid exponential spread of the coronavirus can be enormous. Omikron seems to surpass all previous variants. The faster we act, the more we can avoid serious consequences.