Russia and Ukraine ...
There has been increasing tensions on an already strained relationship between Russia and Ukraine. The two countries share a 1,200 km border where a significant number of Russian troops are located, which has prompted major concern in Europe and from the U.S., as fears of a repeat of 2014 could occur. Russian officials have denied any plans to invade Ukraine but it is clear that this is a sign of strength from Vladmir Putin who has previously claimed that Ukraine should still be a territory under the control or sphere of influence of Russia. The Americans have already issued claims that the Russians are hoping for escalation so that they may blame any issue on Ukraine and/or NATO.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky stated that the message sent by the Russian build-up is “very dangerous” and has called upon aid from the U.S.. President Biden has spoken to President Putin with the goal of easing tensions. It appears that this has not, so far, been successful. Germany has potentially hinted that it would consider stopping the controversial Nord Stream 2, which would supply gas from Russia.
So could Russia invade or is this all show and no go? Well, we will have to wait, as everything could potentially happen overnight. CIA Director William Burns stated that if Russia invaded it would be a “sweeping” manoeuvre. A statement that should give NATO and the EU much cause for concern. At the moment, current estimates and predictions are that Russia is waiting for the right moment when key nations and actors are distracted.
Omicron and the “S gene” …
The Omicron variant has been the new popular Covid-19 strain that has reminded all of us that we still have a long way to go in this pandemic. Well, that road may have gotten even harder with the discovery of a “stealth” variant. This variant is difficult or nearly impossible to distinguish from other variants in a PCR test. This means that it is more difficult to oversee the spread and enact measures appropriate. Whilst this variant is certainly slippery and stealthy, it can still be found by other forms of testing, such as genomic testing. However, these tests are far slower than the PCR tests that we have become accustomed to.
The difference between the two is that Omicron has a missing “S gene”, which is used by coronavirus testing kits, meaning that it should be easily trackable. Unfortunately, this new “stealth” strain does have this “S gene”. We shouldn’t panic too much yet though because whilst this new strain is difficult to distinguish on PCR tests, it is still registered as a positive test. Furthermore, scientists have been expecting variants since the development of the vaccines. The best we can do is ensure that ourselves and our loved ones are vaccinated, masked and keeping a safe distance from others. It can be easy to feel as though the pandemic is never ending but so long as we all do the necessary actions then it actually will endl. Stay strong and keep safe.