Andy Richardson: Wearing masks is a small price to pay to improve our safety

We can’t say they didn’t warn us. After a long, languid spring came Freedom Day.

And while Scotland and Wales maintained numerous restrictions thereafter, in England it was pretty much up to us to do as we wished.

No wonder, therefore, that masks were ditched, infection levels remained around the 40,000 mark and hospitalisations hovered somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000. Deaths remained around 100 or more.

We were told that unless wealthy nations provided vaccines for poorer nations, new variants would develop.

Inevitably, they’d be harder to contain than the existing ones – that’s the nature of a mutant.

And so, please welcome Omicron. At least we appear to have learned some of the lessons following our disastrous earlier failings with Delta et al.

Swift action has followed, though not hard action, as in Israel, which is banning incoming flights.

It was only a matter of time before a new variant required a global response – and this won’t be the last time we have to spring into action.

In coming days, it will spread around the globe, having been transmitted while travellers were blissfully unaware.

We are fortunate, we have vaccines. Yet more than 100,000 vulnerable people have not yet taken their booster jab.

Wearing masks is a small price to pay to improve our safety and to protect others.

The beginning of the end that many thought we’d reached remains on the horizon.

And we ought to look with gratitude to scientists in Botswana and South Africa for their insightful, transparent analysis, which gives us all the opportunity to remain safer.

The vaccine and mask wearing remain the most effective tools, for now.

We all know what to do – and encouraging words are not out of place for those who’ve so far elected not to protect themselves or others by refusing the jab. C’mon, you know it makes sense.

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