Around a month and half ago the western news cycle had finally seemed to relent in its pandemic stimulus, and began to make room in topical conversation for classics, such as war with Russia and China, mass murder events, inequality and diversity, and some climate change. There was even enough room for the Ghislaine Maxwell trial to slip through and remind us that child sex trafficking rings are odd aberrations contained to within the scope of the recreational activities of even odder individuals. Things were beginning to return to normal.

Then in late November we got a taste of what that new normal is, when the news cycle began to spread rumours again, this time circulating out of South Africa.

New coronavirus variant a ‘serious concern’ in South Africa
“Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant of concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally.
The new discovery, called B.1.1529 until a Greek letter is assigned, carries an unusually large number of mutations and is “clearly very different” from previous incarnations, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities, said at a briefing on Thursday (Friday AEDT).”

The Age, November 26, 2021

South Africa Identifies New Variant
“Scientists in South Africa on Thursday identified a concerning new coronavirus variant with mutations that one scientist said marked a “big jump in evolution,” prompting several countries to quickly limit travel from the region.”

NYTimes, Nov. 25, 2021

South Africa accuses UK and others of ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to new variant
“It’s all speculation at this stage. It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild,” she said. “Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No. We are concerned and we watch what’s happening. But for now we’re saying, ‘OK: there’s a whole hype out there. [We’re] not sure why.’”

The Guardian, 27 Nov, 2021

WHO classifies South Africa COVID strain as variant ‘of concern’, names it Omicron
WHO’s Technical Advisory Group said Omicron had a large number of mutations that made it concerning, and that preliminary evidence suggested “an increased risk of reinfection” compared to the other variants of concern, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Nov, 2021

Nothing to be alarmed about yet, just aware of. Something to keep in mind, like a seed. The variant was given a name, while its risk profile was being determined by South African health institutions, who reported it had a very 'mild' risk-profile. There were, however, concerns that the mRNA gene therapy vaccines that target the spike protein weren't going to be effective against this variant, since it had 30+ mutations in its spike protein. It was unclear what had caused these mutations in the spike protein, but a dialectic between an animal or immunocompromised person was set-up for further speculation into which one of these two possibilities it would be. Though we'll likely never know. Something The Science concedes only in rare cases.

S.African doctor says patients with Omicron variant have "very mild" symptoms
"A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain among patients said on Sunday that symptoms of the Omicron variant were so far mild and could be treated at home.”

Reuters, 28 Nov, 2021

‘Encouraging’ early feedback on Omicron severity: Dr Fauci
“Early indications of the severity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are “a bit encouraging” but more information is still needed, according to leading US pandemic adviser Dr Anthony Fauci. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest hospitalisation rates have not increased alarmingly.”

Al Jazeera, 5 December, 2021

“Early data from South Africa hints Omicron variant may cause less severe Covid, but more research is needed”
'The South African Medical Research Council posted a report Saturday of the early experiences at several hospitals in Gauteng Province, where Omicron was first spotted in the country. Strikingly, most hospitalized patients who tested positive for Covid did not need supplemental oxygen. Few developed Covid pneumonia, few required high-level care, and fewer still were admitted to intensive care.”

Stat News, 4 December, 2021

Then suddenly this week things took a turn for the worst. It turned out Omicron wasn't actually less severe than any of the previous variants, but rather South Africa's population was just better protected against it. . .for some odd reason.

South Africa says vaccines and past infections could be reason omicron variant cases appear milder
“We believe that it might not necessarily just be that omicron is less virulent, but we believe that this coverage of vaccination, also in addition to natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus, is also adding to the protection,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news briefing. “That’s why we are seeing mild illness.” England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, cautioned Wednesday that it was possible that reduced hospitalization rates in South Africa would not be replicated in other countries. “It may be that some of, possibly even all of, any decrease in severity from South Africa is just explained by immunity,” he said adding that the different age groups of each country’s population should also be taken into account.

Wastington Post, 17 December, 2021

South Africa says vaccines and natural immunity are limiting latest Covid wave
Echoing the findings of Shabir Mahdi, a vaccine expert at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, the health minister, Joe Phaahla, told a news conference: “We believe that it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but … coverage of vaccination [and] … natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus is also adding to the protection. That’s why we are seeing mild illness.”

The Guardian, 17 December, 2021

South Africa Omicron study finds drop in vaccine protection, fewer hospitalized
Tedros said vaccines have the greatest impact if they target those at most risk. He said the WHO isn't against booster shots, but he said the order matters. Giving them to people at low risk endangers those at high risk who are still waiting for their primary doses, Tedros said, adding that giving additional doses to those at high risk can save more lives than giving primary doses to those at low risk. "Our main concern is to save lives everywhere," he said.”

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy - University of Minnesota, 14 December, 2021

South Africa: previous infections may explain Omicron hospitalisation rate
High levels of previous exposure to three previous waves of coronavirus infection in South Africa may explain the relatively low levels of hospitalisation and severe disease in the current outbreak of the Omicron variant, rather than the variant itself being less virulent. The suggestion was made by the vaccine expert Shabir Madhi of the University of the Witwatersrand, who has led vaccine trials in the country. He warned that South Africa’s experience of Omicron might not be a reliable indicator for how the Omicron outbreak unfolds in other countries.

The Guardian, 14 December, 2021

So in other words, words like natural, acquired, immunity; South Africa with its low vaccination rate and high naturally acquired immunity has made the Omicron variant deceptively less severe than it would otherwise be to highly vaccinated populations, who will of course require booster shots to manage it.

Of course this is not what is thought, only said. It is clearly being said that the South African population has a low vaccination rate and high levels of naturally acquired immunity, and that the risk profile of Omicron to that population is low because of this. It is clearly being said that other populations do not share the same risk profile of Omicron as South Africa. That the risk-profile of Omicron to highly vaccinated nations is more severe.

G7 statement on the Omicron variant
G7 health ministers today held their final meeting of the UK’s G7 Presidency, focusing particularly on the very worrying developments on Omicron. Deeply concerned by the rise in cases, ministers agreed that these developments should be seen as the biggest current threat to global public health

G7, 16 December, 2021

Omicron likely biggest threat of Covid pandemic so far, says UK health chief
“It’s probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic and I’m sure for example the numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants,” Harries said.

The Guardian, 16 December, 2021

WHO expects severe omicron cases, warns against treating variant as mild disease
The World Health Organization on Wednesday cautioned against treating the Covid omicron variant as a mild strain, warning that the virus will also cause severe illness.

CNBC, 16 December, 2021

The authoritative advice from public health administrators at the moment seems to be - shut your fucking mouth, put a mask over it, and stop asking questions. But why is a population who only vaccinated its vulnerable demographics coping with the omicron variant, while populations who vaccinate across all demographics won't?

If it were due to South Africa having an unvaccinated youthful population with naturally acquired immunity, then already highly vaccinated populations vaccinating the last of their unvaccinated youth, 5-11 year olds, would make no sense.

The media cycle has finally achieved doublethink! It is saying aloud what we aren't allowed to think.

It is saying that a lowly vaccinated population with natural immunity is better protected than a highly vaccinated population with natural immunity, and that because of this the highly vaccinated populations should vaccinate more.

It's almost as if the highly vaccinated populations don't have natural immunity, which is the only thing that can create herd immunity. And instead they have some kind of synthetic immunity which needs to be administered every few months in the form of an on-going therapy. If this is the case, then I suppose the current response within highly vaccinated nations makes complete sense in contrast to what is going on in South Africa.