March of the Mutants
Covid may be losing the vaccine battle. But, as the virus evolves fast to form new variants, the war is most definitely not over
Monday 1 March 2021
So many of the metaphors about the fight against Covid-19 have drawn on wartime imagery: sacrifice for the greater good; an implacable foe; a national struggle. It was as if we were fighting trench warfare against a virus – but the new variants of the disease make a mockery of the notion of a pitched battle. As we head across no-man’s-land, pointing syringes filled with vaccine at the enemy, we’re coming to terms with the idea that the coronavirus is a will-o’-the-wisp. By the time we get to it, it’s already shape-shifted. Viruses mutate: we knew, or we ought to have known. But only now are we fully recognising that the reason Covid-19 is here to stay is because of its mutations. As Matthew d’Ancona reports, the coronavirus variants are the single most important factor determining government policy and our chances of a return to what used to be normal life.
Ceri Thomas, Editor