It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christma. . . Groundhog Day?

The City of Ottawa’s top doctor, Vera Etches, released new health restrictions for the entire city on December 17th with 50 per cent capacity limits for the already struggling hospitality industry.

Other new (but unfortunately familiar) rules have been put in place, including table limits of six people and no eating or drinking unless seated. The worry comes as a province-wide spike in Covid-19 cases is occurring, with the Omicron variety scheduled to become the top variant in the city in the coming days.

Nobody denies the dangers of Covid-19, but Omicron seems blown out of proportion.

A British public health agency predicted 75,000 deaths by the end of April. With current modeling, there are as many as 10,000 cases expected per day in Ontario, but we heard drastic claims like this last Christmas when PM Justin Trudeau said a normal holiday season was “off the table”.

The predictions seem borderline apocalyptic, a contagion-like horror movie.

The two doses of vaccines that 90 per cent of the city has rolled up their sleeves for aren’t effective enough to contain the spread. The promise of returning to everyday life is being quashed again and again: borders are closing, travel advisories are back, and so are provincial- and municipal-level restrictions. 

Yet, on December 19th, when over 333 people tested positive for Covid, there were only five hospitalizations for Covid, and of those, none in the ICU. Vaccines may not wholly repel Covid-19, but they're doing the job of preventing severe illness.

During the latest wave in South Africa, the number of people infected by Omicron was overwhelming but only 1.7% of cases required hospitalizations — relatively benign when compared to the Delta variant. 

Whatever happened to the old British saying from the Second World War, “Keep Calm and Carry On”?

The scientific data appears to show that the pandemic has evolved into a less dangerous more transmissible variant of the Coronavirus. So far, the UK has reported seven deaths among the surge of Omicron cases. By all accounts, this is not the Delta variant or the original Coronavirus that overran Italy in early 2020.

With the doomsday predictions coming from political leaders and health officials, cynicism among the everyday person is palpable . . . #SoDoneWithCovid.

About 50 per cent of the population appears almost indifferent to Omnicron. Talk radio in the capital would have you believe so at least.

Restaurants all follow mandated precautions and no longer worry about spreading the virus, they fear going out of business after nearly two years of this.

Etches stated during her press conference: “We know it will cause additional stresses during one of the busiest times of the year.”

An understatement. Twenty-two months into this pandemic, it seems life will not be getting back to normal. If an extremely non-lethal variant (in comparison to Delta) can put us all into a state of near lockdown, then the alarms bells will continue to sound.

The next challenge for the pandemic will not be the virus itself but getting tripple-vaccinated people who fear it, to learn to live with risk.

If local businesses can suffer this much over a variant that has yet to kill anybody in Canada there may be a larger problem with the power we’ve let fear have over us.

Covid needs to be fought and taken seriously but at what cost are we willing to pay for it?

Photo: iStock