Late last year, shortly after omicron arrived on the scene with its market-rattling post-Thanksgiving debut, we shared musings from a group of investors and market strategists who theorized that the new variant might actually help accelerate the end of the pandemic, and therefore, that it would ultimately be bullish for equities and crypto.
Here's one memorable tweet from Bill Ackman.
A thought. While it is too early to have definitive data, early reported data suggest that the Omicron virus causes ‘mild to moderate’ symptoms (less severity) and is more transmissible. If this turns out to be true, this is bullish not bearish for markets.— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) November 29, 2021
But while policy nabobs in the US like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky turned the panic dial up to '11', convincing millions of Americans to cancel their Christmas travel plans as millions around the country fell ill with symptoms more closely approximating a mild flu or a bad cold, scientists in South Africa were observing an interesting trend...the omicron wave there seemed to come and go without causing the horrorshow of deaths and systemic strain. Sure, a lot of people tested positive, but in the end, omicron appears to have helped the population build up its natural resistance to SARS-CoV-2 without killing millions of people.
And on Saturday, a scientist in the UK - where the NHS has called up military personnel and ordered field hospitals to be built to help accommodate the number of patients arriving at hospitals with COVID (even while deaths have remained well below their levels from last winter's delta wave) - helped to further frame omicron as almost a positive development in the evolution of the virus. During an interview with Times Radio, he described it as a "ray of light" that would help ease the transition for COVID to become an endemic disease, like the common cold.
The remarks come courtesy of Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling and a University of Warwick professor.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) and a University of Warwick professor, said Omicron could be an indicator that in the future there may be a less severe variant that is similar to the common cold. But as Covid cases continued to rise in the UK and hospitalisations at their highest in almost a year, he said “we’re not quite there yet."
"The thing that might happen in the future is you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less severe, and ultimately, in the long term, what happens is Covid becomes endemic and you have a less severe version. It’s very similar to the common cold that we’ve lived with for many years,” he told Times Radio on Saturday.
"We’re not quite there yet, but possibly Omicron is the first ray of light there that suggests that may happen in the longer term. It is, of course, much more transmissible than Delta was, which is concerning, but much less severe.”
He added that any variants that are less virulent than delta are "where we want to be" (regardless of whether they can still infect the vaccinated, or not).
He added: "Hopefully, as we move more towards the spring and we see the back of Omicron, we can get more inter-relationships of living with Covid as an endemic disease and protecting the vulnerable. Any variant that does emerge which is less severe, ultimately, in the longer term, is where we want to be."
During the past week, the number of COVID-positive patients hospitalized across the UK hit 18,454, the highest level since last February.
But notice the number of daily deaths has risen only slightly since last fall.
As far as hospital admissions go, Dr. Tildesley pointed out that the headline numbers don't tell the whole story.
"On the slightly more positive side, so it doesn’t sound all doom and gloom, what we are seeing from hospital admissions is that stays in hospital do appear to be on average shorter, which is good news, symptoms appear to be a little bit milder, so this is what we are seeing consistently with the Omicron variant,” he added.
So, before you panic about the looming collapse of your health-care system, remember: there's reason to believe humanity has turned a corner.