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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Opinion: Am I afraid of Covid?

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I was afraid of Covid. He did so because I had said to him I wasn’t going out much at the moment due to the high number of cases in New Zealand. His question was interesting because up until that point I wouldn’t have said I was ‘scared’ of the virus, at least not anymore. Back in 2020, I definitely was. Numbers were spiking around the globe and the death toll was rising.

Two years on, I am triple vaxxed, and I know several people who have been infected with the omicron variant and recovered.

So, the answer to my friend’s question was: “no not really, but maybe.”  Yeah, sounds like a copout right?

Well, no, not really…

I am living my life, I’m going out for groceries, and I’m occasionally catching up with friends, going out to dinner, seeing movies, but not as often as in the past. That’s partly because many of the events I would go to have been cancelled, but also because while I’m not ‘afraid’ of the virus, I’d just rather not get sick. 

I haven’t had a cold for three years, which is really unusual for me, and I put it down to a) two years of restrictions, and b) very little inbound tourism bringing in those pesky bugs from overseas. 

Not being afflicted by colds has been something I’ve relished, and that’s mainly because as a male, my self-perception of symptoms often far outweighs the actual ones. Therefore, while I think it is highly likely I will be infected at some point by covid, I’d still like to minimise the risk.  

The conversation about all this with my friend came about because from tomorrow night New Zealand’s covid rules change again. Having successfully avoided major outbreaks of the disease for most of the past two years, the country is moving to a place where we are now ‘living with it’. 

What are the new rules?

While the country will remain at the Red level, from this weekend, masks will no longer need to be worn outside, and there will be no limits on the size of outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings can now be up to 200 people, and QR scanning will end.

From the 5th of April, vaccine mandates end for most people – the exceptions being for workers in health and disability, aged care, corrections, and border and MIQ workers. We will also no longer require vaccine passes. 

It has been obvious that at some point, we would have to transition to opening up the country again and remove restrictions. Now with most of the population vaccinated, and with omicron spreading throughout the country, it is wise to do this. It is early autumn, so having a peak of cases now is preferable to having one in mid-winter. 

Should we still be cautious? Yes, I think so. 

Most of us are vaccinated, and it seems for many if they get omicron variant it is less severe. But the virus still kills people, particularly those unvaccinated and/or elderly or with compromised health. 

I still maintain that the unvaccinated should change their minds unless there is a genuine health reason they cannot have one. The reason I say that is that the virus will continue to mutate, other variants may well be more virulent and dangerous than that currently running through the country. Already, a new sub-variant of omicron called BA.2 is beginning to dominate in the US and Europe, and now here in New Zealand. It is said to be more virulent, but milder, but it is still early days, and it also shows that mutations continue just as they have with other diseases. There are also reports of a new variant called Deltacron, so the virus is continuing to evolve.  

Do the changes go far enough?

Well, that depends on who you talk to. There are some in business who don’t think so because there are still limits on indoor numbers. I empathise with those positions, but I agree with our government that incremental changes are a good step. In terms of large concerts or events, it will take some time for those to come back as so much planning is involved, so a few weeks or even months of slow reintegration won’t make too much of a difference. 

Opening up the country is important, we cannot continue to put the economy at risk, but we also need to be cautious. I won’t be staying at home, and in fact, I am off to see a movie tonight, and this weekend I’m out to dinner with friends, but I am not sure I’ll be going to places with large amounts of people in them for a while. 

Therefore, in answer to my friend’s question, no, I’m not afraid of covid, but I do have a healthy wariness about it!

Note – This article has been corrected to say that BA.2 is a sub-variant of omicron, and is here in New Zealand, and to include a reference to a new hybrid virus named ‘Deltacron’.


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