Omicron; the variant


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South Africa’s Minister of Health addresses the media and dispels rumors on the Omicron variant.

Henry Haft, Satire Editor

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron in South Africa quickly triggered global alarm this week. Canada, Britain, India, Iran, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates have all toughened travel curbs. Although there are still many unknowns, some claim that this new variant has resistance to the vaccine and may spread faster. This assertion leads us to many questions; were the travel curbs necessary? How is Omicron different from COVID or Delta variants? Do I need to be worried?

South African Minister of Health Dr. Joe Fala claims that the bans were unjustified. He said, “The reaction of some of the countries in terms of imposing travel bans and such measures are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization.” Dr. Fala goes on to say that his scientists discovered it and said it simply needed to be “watched” and that “at no stage did the scientists who announced the discovery of this variant say that this particular variant will be resistant to the vaccines which are being utilized.”

Although Dr. Fala’s account for the variant is factual and reassuring, it was not enough to please everyone. The new variant immediately infected stock markets around the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 905 points, approximately 2.53%. The S&P 500 index fell 2.27%, its worst day since September, and the Nasdaq composite also had its worst drop in two months.

Travel and energy stocks were among the biggest losers, with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruises all off over 10%. Fearful of more lockdowns and travel bans, investors moved money into companies that primarily benefited from previous waves, like Zoom Communications for meetings or Peloton for at-home exercise equipment. Peloton shares were up 3%, while Zoom was up more than 8%.

Whether the new variant is deadly or not, everyone is on board to keep any potential disease out and hopefully prevent another lockdown. People are scared and are still recovering and being affected by COVID-19 and its variants. Hopefully, the Omicron variant will be contained and will not pose a global threat. There is still little confirmed science, but there is no need to sound the alarm yet from what we know.