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The Omicron Variant – the next Delta or a storm in a teacup?

Last week I travelled to Victoria, the first such trip since the last lockdown – it was good to get moving again. I meet business owners for a living and predominantly the owners of small to mediums sized companies. Yet again, I heard remarkable stories of resilience and resourcefulness as owners spoke about how they had dealt with the adversity thrust upon them during the latest lockdowns – it was also good to see Melbourne CBD coming back to life. I had dinner with a client at a local eatery near our hotel. It was heaving, and people were out in force. 

Things were looking up; people are making holiday plans and then, like many of you, I heard the news on Friday about the latest variant.

So, is it a case of here we go again or something different?

The new COVID B.1.1.529 variant reported from South Africa last week, designated “Omicron”, has already spread to the US and Europe. Yesterday two cases were reported here in Australia in travellers arriving from southern Africa. So, do we need to be worried?

Reports are that so far South Africa is seeing the majority of cases in younger people (under 40), and that most cases are mild. Some are requiring intensive care, but most of those people are either unvaccinated or have only one dose of the vaccine.

Whilst fully vaccinated people are becoming infected, it seems that vaccination is still offering some degree of protection from severe illness. Science has also confirmed it can adjust the vaccination against this and future variants. 

So, do we need to be worried?

The AFR today are leading with a doomsday headline: Omnicron arrives, ASX to tumble. Well at the time of writing (Midday) the market currently remains undecided, down just 16 points on Friday’s close. So we aint tumbling just yet…

After the initial sinking feeling on Friday on hearing the news, I reflected on how lucky we are in Australia. We are closing in on 90% vaccination rates nationally, therefore our risks are far less than in other countries where the rates are much lower (in some regions of the world the vaccination rate is in single digits, including Africa!).

We live and work in an increasingly global economy. We are of course connected by our common humanity and if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we must help everyone that wants protection from the vaccine – including third world countries. There is no long-term protection for any of us unless we protect everyone. The variants mutate much more effectively when vaccination rates are low. We can only ultimately move forward at the pace of the slowest country!        

Yet again it’s time to stay cool, get the facts as they appear and take whatever actions make sense to protect our businesses, our loved ones and each other.

 

If you want some good objective and informed information on the pandemic, I can recommend the daily updates and explanations by Dr John Cambell who publishes for free each day on YouTube. He is a good statistician as well as a medical doctor, and he seems to avoid the sensationalism currently found in the press. 

 

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