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WORLD LEADERS TAKE DRASTIC MEASURES IN RESPONSE TO NEW OMICRON VARIANT

Omicron

On Friday 26 November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 – named ‘Omicron’ – a variant of concern, based on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), who found that Omicron has several mutations that may impact its behaviour. While the variant is commonly dubbed “the South African variant”, the earliest sample was detected in Botswana on 11 November and has since been found in several other countries. Omicron has more than 30 mutations on its spike protein (face), which is more than double the mutations carried by the Delta variant. Researchers around the world are or will be, conducting assessments of the strain’s transmissibility, the severity of infection (including symptoms), the performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and the effectiveness of treatments. However, the WHO has said the implications of the mutations may take weeks to understand. Amid the uncertainty, many countries, starting with the UK, temporarily banned travel from several southern African countries where the variant has been found. Many opponents to such impulsive measures, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – who addressed the nation on 28 November – argue that it is unfair to punish South Africa for detecting the virus early. A major concern raised by Mr Ramaphosa and others is how the “scientifically unjustified” travel curbs – which go against promises made by G20 nations in Rome last month – will only “further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic”. Another point of injustice highlighted by the emergence of this new variant and the world’s subsequent response is the huge disparities in vaccination rates globally. According to medical and human rights groups, while many developed countries are administering third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in poorer countries have received their first shot.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

While this news has caused global concern, Christians should not be shocked and shaken by the emergence of yet another variant – not only based on virological trends but because the Lord warned us. In Luke 21:11, Jesus tells us that among the signs of the end times, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” There will be numerous pestilences as God’s timeline progresses. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines ‘pestilences’ as: “Contagious or infectious epidemic diseases that are virulent and devastating”. The world has been confronted with another obstacle in its attempts to return to the ‘normal’ life, security, and certainty we long for. People’s plans have been disrupted, and many people are worried about the widespread and long-lasting implications of the drastic responses adopted by many countries. We are again challenged to check where our hope and security lies. If we are anchored in the unchanging person of Jesus Christ, we can remain steadfast in the storm, not being tossed around by every wind and wave. At the same time, we can remain flexible and adaptable in everything else as we focus on the one thing that remains the same regardless of the uncertainty of tomorrow. Moreover, we should remember that we can never be sure of tomorrow.  James 4:13-16 says: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” Instead of focusing on making plans for tomorrow, as the body of Christ, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:23-24)

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For governments to respond compassionately and reasonably, considering the impacts of their actions on other countries
  • For Christians to remain steadfast as they anchor themselves in Christ and live with eternity in mind
  • For Christians to submit their lives and plans to God and focus on spurring one another on toward love and good deeds

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Image: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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