The IMF managing director’s economic assessment of the uncertainty caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus variant called Omicron has been articulated with remarkable promptitude.
Kristalina Georgieva’s prognosis is not the foreboding of a Jeremiah, but a forecast on the paradigm of growth and development, one that has been driven by the analysis of economic data. She has indeed let it be known that the IMF will very probably lower its global economic growth estimates following the detection/emergence of the new variant.
Suffice it to register that it is another indication of the economic turmoil that has been unleashed by the pandemic, almost global. Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries ever since it was first detected in South Africa quite recently.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and we are likely to experience downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” Ms Georgieva is reported to have said last weekend.
Parts of Europe and the United States of America are already grappling with a wave of infections of the more widely reported Delta variant. Misgivings are not wholly unfounded not the least because the new strain could further destabilize economies that are still emerging from lockdowns and disruptions in the wake of Covid-19.
The biggest outbreak outside of South Africa has been reported from the Norwegian capital of Oslo during a corporate Christmas party ~ a cruel irony if ever there was one. While Delta accounts for 99 per cent of the raging transmissions, the World Health Organization has let it be known that what it calls the “fast-spreading variant” will have to become “more transmissible to outcompete Delta”.
Rightly has Ms Georgieva said that “we need to be prepared and cautious ~ not panic ~ because we are in a different situation to a year ago.” In the reckoning of WHO, there is no evidence that the existing vaccines need to be modified to fight Omicron. The nub of the matter must be that more and more people, including kids, need to be inoculated with vaccines currently in the market.
Not wholly unrelated is WHO’s caveat to a UN briefing in Geneva. Specifically, vaccine manufacturers should prepare for the likelihood of adjusting their products. The CEO of Germany’s Bio-Tech, Ugur Sahin, is confident that the company should be able to adapt to shots relatively quickly.
The current vaccines should continue to provide protection against severe disease, despite its mutations. While Australia is the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, it has been detected in no fewer than ten states in the United States of America. This poses yet another challenge to the Biden administration, indeed the healthcare system that is already dealing with cases of Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant. The world’s convulsions don’t seem to end.