Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 10 September 2023

Variants and scariants – the Covid joke is on us

FAR from bringing down the final curtain, it seems that the Covid comedy show is going to run and run.

First up (as they say), there is the seemingly unending stream of Covid variants. It is almost as if someone is making them up. In the middle of August, I wrote in these pages about Eris, but now others have emerged such as BA.2.86 which may evade the Covid vaccines (code for ‘we need more vaccines’) and Pirola. While we are exhorted to ‘be worried’, if you dig deep into the details it transpires that there is little to worry about.

After all, we have been here before. We were warned about BA.4 and BA.5 (‘variants of concern’) late in 2021 but, probably much to the surprise of the doom-mongers, humanity has survived. Who can forget Omicron which even those who discovered it described as nothing to worry about? But we were urged to worry about it nevertheless. Even more baffling is that some people who did not fall for the Covid vaccine propaganda are still with us. Quelle surprise!

Next on the bill is animal-to-human transmission. There has long been speculation that Covid may spread from humans to animals, so they could become a reservoir for the virus which could then spread back to humans. Early in 2020 the British government issued mundane advice (e.g. ‘wash your hands’) for people with animals and provided a list of the creatures to which it was considered Covid-19 may spread. The list was extensive and may as well have proclaimed ‘the animal kingdom’ as a potential reservoir for the virus. Though little advice related to specific animals, the government saw fit to include a specific section: ‘If you own a ferret’. Sadly, it did not contain the advice ‘don’t put it down your trousers’; a comedy opportunity missed, in my view.

There remains concern that humans are spreading Covid to deer. We first read about this early in the pandemic but, unless we are concerned about the welfare of deer, which surely have better things to worry about than Covid, it is unclear why we should be concerned now. It is suspected (not confirmed) that three humans have contracted Covid from deer in the United States from a population of around 334,233,000 where 120 people are killed annually in road accidents involving deer. The animal crackers continue with the risk of zoo employees contracting Covid from lions. It may just be me, but if I was working with lions, catching a dose of Covid would be way down my list of concerns.

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