Should I try to catch omicron to get it over and done with?

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Almost two years since the start of the pandemic, our country is divided into the haves and have-nots – the have-had-Covids and the have-nots, that is. 

I fall into the first camp: after 18 months of anxiety about catching the virus, I finally succumbed last month – along with the other one in 15 people in England thought to be infected in the final week of last year. My scratchy throat turned out to be what I suspected, but my reaction was not.  

When it was confirmed that I had the virus, I felt not worried but relieved. (I might have felt less sanguine if I wasn’t in my 30s, triple-jabbed and relatively healthy – and if my isolation wasn’t set to end just in time for Christmas.) And now that I have served my 10-day sentence and been re-released back into the world, I am experiencing something of a post-Covid bounce. I no longer care how close to me the spluttering stranger in the supermarket comes, nor worry about hugging my parents in a perilously unventilated room. I can sit in a crowded café without wondering if I’ll pay for this small pleasure later on.

It seems I am not alone in this heady state of post-Covid liberation. Nightclubs have had dance floors packed with people who had to isolate over the festive break and, now they’re recovered, are partying like they did before the pandemic. 

But all this is proving hard to watch for the have-nots – those who, by some kind of miracle, haven’t yet had Covid. Among those who are young, healthy and fully vaccinated, some are even asking if it’s a good idea to catch it now, while we’re in the wave of a mild strain, and get it over with. Images and videos have been surfacing on social media of people holding “Covid-19 parties” – as some parents do with chicken pox – to get infected at a convenient time, before a holiday or wedding, for example. One friend says that after his wife caught Covid over Christmas, he calculated that if he succumbed sooner rather than later, it wouldn’t disrupt the New Year foreign holiday they’d booked. Unsurprisingly, after eating dinner at home with his Covid-positive wife, his next lateral flow test came back with two red lines.

Another who’s managed not to catch Covid despite working in an office through Christmas, and has a friend’s 40th coming up, admits that with the isolation period now shortened to seven days for those who test negative on the last two days, the idea doesn’t feel quite so daunting as before. 

So should you get omicron over with? 

The apparent trend for Covid parties prompted the World Health Organisation to issue a warning this week. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, its technical lead for Covid-19, said that it was “very unsafe”. 

“We are working very hard with all of our partners around the world to give you advice to avoid exposure, to reduce your chance of getting infected, to reduce your chance of passing the virus onward,” she said.

“This is critical right now. It is not the time to retreat. It is not the time to give up, because we have these tools.”

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