Our double-vaxxed daughter is flying into Canberra from Melbourne on Christmas morning. She will be wearing a mask when I pick her up.
Just when we thought at least this Christmas would be half-normal, Omicron has surfed across the world to become the dominant COVID-19 variant, and we’re all praying that it really is just like a cold, even though the jury is still out on that (depending on who you listen to).
That sinking feeling was like delayed shock. We didn’t really want to believe it, although Chief Minister Andrew Barr warned of variants out of Africa months ago when I asked him if he saw any end to the pandemic and its accompanying social restrictions.
We’ll be off to a Boxing Day movie, and now there will be a mask in the pocket and covering up will be a visceral reminder that the virus is still out there waiting for us.
The Prime Minister says there will be no return to lockdowns or mask mandates, as if it’s up to him. But you can sense the panic as case numbers grow, even if the rise in hospital cases is slower than for Delta and its predecessors.
So much for the jabs. Omicron is a tricky bugger and can evade your vaccine defences. But don’t worry, a booster is all you need, except there are plenty who still have months to go before they are ready for a third shot.
Hell, in Israel they are on their fourth vaccination. And the question is, where does it all end? Boosting the boosters? What about more non-vaccine treatments?
Omicron seems to flourish in the respiratory tract but not so much in the lungs, which is a good thing, but it also means it is a lot more transmissible, and that can spell trouble because of the sheer volume of cases it can generate and the threat that poses to health systems.
Some warn it would be a mistake to assume that all viruses evolve into less dangerous versions of themselves, and that Omicron is unpredictable. Others say it can be managed and lived with, like other bugs.
So if we are not going back to lockdowns, there will still need to be public health measures until more is known.
For some states, that will include imposing testing requirements on travellers, resulting in the frustrating queues at Canberra’s testing centres.
Whether a test 72 hours before you travel is meaningful is a good question.
It sucks. We’re all over it.
But we know what we have to do: wash our hands, wear the damn mask, check-in, get the booster (if available) and pray that Omicron is indeed just a sniffle that just needs a traditional hot lemon drink to ward off.
We don’t need federal-state squabbling, Scott Morrison positioning for an election instead of leading, and I’m-all-right-Jack protesters waving flags and conspiracy theories.
The speed of Omicron’s progress through the community means we should know soon enough what we’re up against, particularly with Christmas gatherings and the thousands of people travelling.
The good news is that the wave in South Africa is subsiding as quickly as it rose, and hopefully, that can be expected here too.
But there will be more variants as the virus continues to circulate the world into the future, becoming another seasonal threat to negotiate.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is a day for putting aside our anxieties, enjoying the company of family and giving thanks for where we are blessed to live.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!