The covid-19 pandemic is now two years old. The worst health crisis on the planet in the last century has left behind almost six million dead, 500 million infected people and the hope that vaccination, world awareness, solidarity among governments and scientific advances can heal the scars left by the virus on six continents and lessen its impact in the years to come.
The warnings had come, but no one took them very seriously. Scientists had been warning for years, but governments never wanted to address the risks. Science fiction movies, series and novels focused their themes on this possibility, but few imagined that it would become a reality.
And it came: on March 11, 2020, the WHO declared a pandemic for covid, a wound that, two years later, has left a world marked by fear, mistrust, protests and mental health problems. The world left by the pandemic is a very different one from the one that existed until March 10, 2020.
Everything has changed with the coronavirus
Mistrust, uncertainty, discontent have grown….
We found higher levels of sadness, worsening mood and higher levels of anxiety. Other types of problems have increased, such as eating disorders, and psychologists are seeing an increase in the number of people seeking psychological care.
It cannot be said that the world has not gone through these kinds of situations before. The Black Death, which devastated Europe in the 14th century, or the 1918 flu, which killed up to 40 million people, are just two of the historical references.
At the beginning of the century, the alarm bells rang due to the advance of influenza A (H1N1) – which began in Mexico – and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – a coronavirus (HCoV-EMC/2012) detected in the Arabian Peninsula – with several dozens of deaths.
Spain had experienced in 2014 the first case of Ebola transmission outside Africa. A nursing assistant was infected while caring for several patients who had been transferred from that continent. In all these incidents, the first images of healthcare workers wearing biological protection suits were seen. But the contagions were not massive. And then the virus arrived and with it the first outbreaks….
After confinements of all kinds, waves and countless variants, the pandemic has left indelible images: the collapse of ICUs with a number of admissions that exceeded the capacity of hospitals around the world, the population leaning out of balconies as people were forbidden to go out into the street, children locked indoors and unable to attend school in person, the streets emptied and the strange moment when the noise was replaced by silence, while we waited at home with our fingers crossed for good news…
Six waves later, millions of doses later, life is not the same and neither is the virus.
The coronavirus evolves
The symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 have been evolving as the virus has been mutating. With the current predominant variant, omicron, the symptoms reported by infected persons, many of them already vaccinated with two or even three doses, have been less severe than those suffered with previous variants such as delta, beta, alpha or the original Wuhan variant, when the population was not vaccinated because the injections were still being developed.
Since the beginning of the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, two years ago, the list of potential COVID symptoms has been steadily increasing thanks to the multiplicity of variants, ranging from stomach pain to loss of smell and taste, including the most common ones: fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Now, the list has been updated with runny nose, headache, fatigue (moderate or severe), sneezing, sore throat, lower back pain and muscle pain.
Epidemiologists have warned in recent weeks that there has been “confusion” in speaking of Omicron as a milder flu-like variant, as its heavy transmission has caused in absolute terms more deaths than the two previous waves. However, in relative terms, the overall mortality of COVID-19 has fallen from 5% in March 2020 to 0.9% today.
Likewise, experts stress that the way to protect oneself from omicron and its subvariant (‘stealthy’) is the same as for previous strains: vaccination, masks (especially when we have symptoms or if we interact with vulnerable people), interpersonal distance and ventilation of indoor spaces.