Omicron shows why it's time to move on from COVID restrictions

A year ago, vaccines were supposed to be the natural endpoint. But since vaccines have become widely available, we’ve learned that their ability to prevent infection wanes over time, even though they are safe and remain effective at reducing the chances of severe illness. This means that people require boosters to reestablish their immunity. But what if boosters, too, become less effective over time?

That brings us to the variants. The number of COVID-19 cases was winding down in the spring, before the Delta wave hit in the summer and fall and helped trigger another surge. Now Omicron is on the march. We have every reason to believe that there will be additional variants to follow.

What we’ve learned during a pandemic that is approaching the two-year mark is that health authorities are reluctant to ease restrictions or loosen guidance until they are very confident that a COVID-19 wave has subsided, and also that they begin to reimpose new restrictions once a new variant is on the loose. But we’re perpetually either coming off a surge from one variant or bracing for the spread of new one, so this is a recipe for never truly going back to normal.