New year, new view

Usually confined to a cameo role in blockbuster films, scientists are true heroes of the pandemic

Week 1

New Year, same old virus? As familiar conversations rumbled in the approach to 2022 (meet up or lockdown? Festive do or festive don’t?), you could be forgiven for feeling a little haunted by ghosts of COVID-19 Christmas past.

But there are reasons for optimism, even amid the procession of record-high daily case numbers.

Scientists are finding evidence that the Omicron variant is milder than previous forms of COVID-19, while anti-viral drugs that reduce hospitalisation rates are now available to those most vulnerable to the disease in the UK.

Is 2022 the year that we *whisper it* leave COVID-19 behind?

My hunch is that while breaking the link between positive tests and hospitalisations will offer some reprieve, the coming year will be about learning to live alongside the virus.

Not emerging completely from the darkness – but remaining one step ahead of a persistent shadow.

The individuals that will play a vital role in enabling this to happen are the scientists working in labs and the healthcare workers, including optometrists, seeing patients on the frontline.

As young children, we learn about heroism through action movies where scientists are often confined to bit-parts – think Q in James Bond, always on hand to furnish a new gadget and then fade into silently into the background.

But times have changed. In the New Year’s Honour’s list leading figures in science and healthcare stepped into the limelight alongside actor Daniel Craig.

Professors Chris Whitty and Jonathan Van-Tam were knighted, while Dr Jenny Harries was made a dame.

All three individuals became household names during the pandemic, their methodical approach in press briefings providing a sense of reassurance while the country grappled with COVID-19.

Optometrists are also quiet achievers, easing the burden on the hospital eye service and performing GOS sight tests when the fee has not kept pace with inflation let alone advancing technology and services.

Is this the year that the profession steps forward? The answer to that plot twist lies in thousands of testing rooms across the UK. The future is in our hands.