Two years on, we know nothing about the origins of coronavirus

The scourge doesn’t appear to be going away soon, vaccine or no vaccine, drug or no drug

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Published: Tue 21 Dec 2021, 10:29 PM

Fears over Omicron have spooked global businesses as governments rush to strike a balance between the health of their populations and the health of their economies already battered by waves of the coronavirus. In normal times, lockdowns were seen as a last resort but countries like Austria and the Netherlands have already enforced curbs on gatherings and movement that have both hurt the economy and people.

It’s seeming like 2020 all over again, back where we started when the coronavirus first hit us and consumed our consciousness and lives. And to think that this real-life viral thriller appeared headed towards a denouement only two months ago…The latest mutation could mean we have a long way to go before we put this nightmare behind us. Predictions of the pandemic ending by 2022 have all been binned.

We needn’t have got here, yet we ignored the warnings even when we had an arsenal of vaccines late last year. The unvaccinated, the poor, and the have-nots in Africa were left to fend for themselves and health systems in the developing world crumbled in the wake of the strain, literally.

Covid has again stolen Christmas this year. It’s been two years in a row and the scourge doesn’t appear to be going away soon, vaccine or no vaccine, drug or no drug. The pathogen’s powers of evasion have been touted by experts who continue to keep the world in suspense as they wait for more data on Omicron’s behaviour. Meanwhile, scientists, virologists and epidemiologists are unleashing their powers of persuasion on a tired and fatigued public who have had enough as they continue to dodge the virus. ‘How much longer?’ they ask. The answers are not forthcoming from the learned men and women who claim to know the behaviour of the germ but are in reality in the dark about the mutations it can pick up as it infects and circulates among populations.

Some countries like the UK are contemplating curfews and shutdowns while the Biden administration which promised to build back better is faltering all the way in both in its response and messaging following the rise of the new variant. It’s not exactly jingle all the way during the Christmas season, the White House has realised after promising a new era in governance and accountability. Global institutions like the World Health Organization have issued warnings after warnings about future waves even as the origins of the virus remain a mystery. So, where do we begin? What was the original host? Was it indeed bat? Was there a carrier animal that passed the virus to humans? When will we know? We knew nothing in 2020. We know little at the end of 2021. The WHO wants answers, so do we.

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