One of the most puzzling things during the pandemic is the repeated idea that as soon as cases start to fall, people start assuming that it is over. Sadly, this is far from the truth. The sudden reversal of various mandates such as those related to wearing masks and restrictions on indoor gatherings will accelerate the next surge. Worse, this leads to a further erosion in confidence by the public, which ends up costing more in the terms of health, lives, and the economy.
While it is true the the surge of the omicron subvariant BA.1 seems to be done, BA.2 is right around the corner for many areas. Sadly, US politicians don’t seem to have learned any lessons yet about observing what is happening in other countries. The fact is that BA.2 has barely made a showing yet in most countries is illustrated below with a couple of examples.
South Africa is a particularly interesting one to assess. Prior waves had generally smooth declines in cases. That is not the case with the recent one. There is a bulge about the time that BA.2 started becoming a larger proportion of sequenced isolates and the decline is ending much sooner at a higher baseline.
The other big difference in South Africa is seen in the slope of the cases (black dotted line) in comparison to the covariants. The valley of the final slope curve is much more narrow and sharp, also in conjunction with the rise of BA.2. The slope line is also settling again near zero, meaning that the baseline case rate is stabilizing at a higher level than the past.
Denmark is a particularly good warning. It’s very easy to see the BA.1 surge starting in December but then a surge-on-a-surge in January as BA.2 becomes dominant.
New Zealand is a prime example of the impact of BA.1 and BA.2 hitting almost simultaneously. It’s rising so fast there that it’s difficult to see the peak, so I’ve also included a graph with the slope of the case curve added.
So where does that put us in the US? BA.2 is only just starting to emerge. It’s more easily spread than BA.1. When that is combined with the widespread relaxation of administrative controls and outright banning of them in some jurisdictions, it spells a bad spring for the US.
The smartest thing to do is to be fully vaccinated and wear a N-95 or comparable respirator when in public spaces. The notion that the pandemic is over is simply wrong. Most likely we have years to go with a higher and higher rate of transmission with each subsequent variant of concern.
I’ve looked through a number more countries this evening and have seen similar patterns. I wont provide much for narrative other than a header indicating one of three patterns that I’ve place in what I believe to be an order of progression as BA.2 becomes more prevalent.
- Sharp Reversal of Case Slope as Early Indicator in Estonia and Sweden. It’s a little difficult to see this in the Estonia graph since it is just starting.
2. Bulges forming in the downward trend of BA.1 cases in Portugal and Spain. It also makes sense that these two nations would be having a similar experience with BA.1 and BA.2 given their geographical proximity.
3. Cases stabilizing at a new HIGHER baseline until BA.2 causes the next surge in Greece, Ireland, and Norway.