We Got A Heap Of Health Experts To Answer Your Burning Questions About That New Binch Omicron

omicron expert answers instagram questions

With the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, there’s heaps of things we’re left wondering — what does this mean for lockdowns? Are the vaccines going to protect us from getting horribly sick? Was it a mistake to go all-in on that Hot Euro Summer next year?

We put the word out on our PEDESTRIAN.TV Instagram: we have access to some top experts that work on infectious diseases, virology (virus biology), and international health, so what questions do you have for them?

The questions we got were varied and showed what you’re stressed and curious about with the new variant. Will borders close? Is it as bad as the Delta variant? Why is it called “Omicron” anyway? Are we fucked???

So here’s what the experts had to say. We’ve grouped a lot of the questions together, but if there’s something that’s been missed or you’ve got more questions, hit us up and we’ll try and get an answer for you.

Will The Current Vaccine Cover Us Or Not?

Professor Raina MacIntyre — who is the Head of Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at UNSW — used her expertise in influenza and emerging infectious diseases to answer questions about the current vaccine protection against Omicron.

“We do not have enough data to determine vaccine effectiveness against Omicron or disease severity, so any claims about either at this stage are not evidence-based,” she said.

“The pathogen genomics show mutations that are associated with resistance to neutralising antibodies and immune evasion, suggesting some degree of vaccine escape is likely. Vaccines will still likely provide protection against severe disease, but we do not yet have data to quantify this.”

Is The Omicron Variant Worse Than Delta?

Handing this one over to Professor Jeremy Nicholson, the Pro Vice Chancellor at Murdoch University’s Health Futures Institute and Centre Director at the Australian National Phenome Centre.

“It is far too early to say whether this is less severe or not and again that will be population dependent,” he said.

“Also if it is highly infectious, more people will get it and it will continue to mutate in the general population. We have no idea whether or not this can give rise to Long Covid, and Long Covid is not heavily dependent on early severity (except long term respiratory symptoms).”

Well, Is ‘More Infectious But Less Morbid’ A Good Thing?

Again, over to you Prof. Nicholson:

“How can a new massively mutated variant with largely unknown properties be a good thing? It is not a good thing.”

Will There Be Another Locky D If This Spreads? My Soul Could Not Take That

“If Omicron is more infectious and displaces Delta, causes as much or more severe disease, and renders the vaccines ineffective, then yes, lockdowns may be back. But that’s in a ‘perfect storm’,” said Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, who’s a specialist in infectious diseases.

“If the vaccines prove effective, and Omicron causes mild disease despite being more infectious than Delta, then the chance of lockdowns are much less likely in a highly vaccinated country.”

How Long Is The Travel Ban Likely To Last?

Professor Jaya Dantas, who’s a Professor of International Health in the School of Population Health at Curtin University broke down the international travel situation for us all.

“A new National Security Committee has been convened today to review the evidence and the range of actions in relation to the Omicron variant,” Prof. Dantas said.

“Australia has stopped flights from nine countries in southern Africa including South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia and have temporarily banned non-citizens who have been in those nine countries from entering Australia.

“New rules have been put in place for all Australians who have been in those nine countries to have 14 days’ quarantine and these rules also apply to those coming under travel bubble arrangements.”

I’m Currently Overseas, Can I Get Back Into Aus If I’m A Permanent Resident?

Again, over to Prof. Jaya Dantas:

“To those returned Australians and Permanent Residents who have been in Australia prior to the commencement of these rules are to undertake quarantine from 14 days after their departure from southern Africa,” Prof. Dantas said.

“The Federal Government has worked with states and territories to put in place public health orders to cover all arrivals with home isolation for a 72-hour period if they’re coming into Australia.”

How Many Confirmed Cases Are In Australia? Are They In The Community Or In Quarantine?

Ok here’s one we can answer!

At the time of writing, there are four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Australia, with a potential fifth currently under investigation but is “testing strongly” for the new variant.

The four confirmed cases are all in 14-day quarantine after arriving in Australia from overseas, but the potential fifth case has been active in the community. This case, who is a fully vaccinated woman in her 30s, travelled by private car from Sydney airport to the Central Coast after arriving in Australia on Thursday, November 25. Everyone on the flight (QR908 from Doha) is considered a close contact, must get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days no matter the results.

The NSW Health Department has also released a list of exposure sites and times, with anyone who was present at those locations and times now considered a casual contact and needs to get tested and isolate until getting a negative result.

Why Is It Called Omicron?

The World Health Organisation picked the next suitable letter in the Greek Alphabet for the latest variant, skipping two letters before it: ‘Nu’ and ‘Xi’.

“‘Nu’ is too easily confounded with ‘new’,” Tarik Jasarevic, a W.H.O. spokesman, said.

“And ‘Xi’ was not used because it is a common last name.”

Are We All Fucked? Should We Lay Low?

“While the 32 mutations in the spike proteins is a ‘real concern’, giving this variant a better way to evade antibodies from vaccines, this should not deter the current worldwide vaccination drive including booster doses together with the ‘weapons’ that we already have,” virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam from Monash Uni’s Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine & Health Sciences said.

“We should not forget that already we have the ‘weapons’ (e.g., masks, social distancing, proper hand hygiene etc.) to reduce the risk of becoming infected.

“It should therefore be our main goal to slow down virus spread by adhering to the existing hygiene and speeding up the vaccination including the booster doses process (especially in vulnerable populations).

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the strongest form of protection.”

Can I Get The Omicron By Taking A Dump In A Public Toilet?

Per the Federal Health Department, the virus can be spread in several ways.

You can pick it up by being in close contact with an infectious person, including in the 48hrs before they have symptoms. You can also get it from coming into contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze (which is why masks help a lot). And you can contract COVID from touching your face or mouth after touching objects or surfaces like doorknobs or tables that have droplets from an infected person.

But you should be washing your hands thoroughly after taking a shit anyway, that’s just basic hygiene. You mother would be desgoosted.