WASHINGTON: The United States has informally called an end to the coronavirus pandemic — more out of fatigue and surrender than from conquering it. Although the seven-day average of Covid-related deaths has reached 2,600 in recent days — the highest in a year — with the US accounting for nearly 100,000 of the half million deaths from the Omicron variant, the country has decided that it has had enough of being bunkered down, with state after state starting to dump strict protocols and mask mandates. Zeroing on the decline in cases and hospitalisations ahead of deaths, which is a lagging indicator, leading pandemic expert Anthony Fauci on Wednesday suggested that the US is past a full-blown pandemic and it is okay for local authorities and individuals to relax restrictions depending on local numbers. “As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of Covid-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated. There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus,” Fauci told the Financial Times, even as several Democratic-run states such a New York and California got ahead of federal guidelines to dump some mask mandates. As much as falling number of cases and hospitalisations that are disproportionately affecting the older demographic, the primary driver for the relaxation appears to be public fatigue, with frustration and resignation captured in several surveys. A Monmouth University poll found that 7 in 10 Americans (70%) agreeing with the sentiment that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives” — the political break up of respondents being 89% Republicans, 71% independents, and 47% of Democrats. A separate Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed nearly 75% of adults saying they were “tired” of the pandemic and “frustrated” with the mandates while acknowledging that most people would eventually contract the virus. The Democrats shift away from federal shepherding was evident in their joining Republicans in Virginia, a GOP-administered state, in making school masks optional after weeks of opposing the governor’s decision. Officials from the World Health Organisation and the Center of Disease Control are still leery of premature relaxation. “We’re concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines, and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible, and no longer necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing last week, warning that it would be “premature for any country either to surrender, or to declare victory” against the coronavirus. A majority of Americans, it appears, couldn’t care; they’ve had enough.

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