Omicron Variant – Reopening Delayed But Not Derailed
The new Omicron COVID-19 variant is more contagious. Existing vaccines still offer some protection but their efficacy is expected to be much reduced. Pharmaceutical companies are working on new vaccines and booster shots specifically designed to combat the new Omicron variant. Switch from Reopening Plays to New Economy Plays. BUY AREIT (Target: S$3.83), FLT (Target: S$1.79), MINT (Target: S$3.72) and FCT (Target: S$2.98). Maintain OVERWEIGHT.
• A new highly-mutated new variant has emerged. Scientists first detected the new coronavirus variant B1.1.529 in South Africa in early November and it has since spread rapidly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the Omicron variant a variant of concern last Friday. The Omicron variant was also detected in nearby Botswana. In Europe, new cases were reported in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Within Asia, Hong Kong has reported two cases of Omicron variant infections.
• Omicron variant is more contagious. It has 50 mutations, including 30 on the spike protein. The mutations make the new variant more transmissible. They are also more likely to overcome our immune response triggered by existing vaccines and prior infections. While existing vaccines still offer some protection against the Omicron variant, the probability of “vaccine escape” is likely to have increased substantially. Omicron variant could spread between people who are fully vaccinated. It could also re-infect those who have recovered from previous COVID-19 infections.
• Research underway to study the known unknowns. Scientists are studying the ability of existing vaccines to combat the new Omicron variant. Many of the mutations have not been observed in the past. At the moment, it is uncertain how these new mutations will affect the severity of Omicron variant infections. Scientists are also studying whether the Omicron variant causes severe symptoms for those who are fully vaccinated.
• Pharmaceutical companies working feverishly. Pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop new vaccines and booster shots specifically designed to combat the new Omicron variant. Pfizer/BioNTech said they could adapt their mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days. Moderna said the company will ramp up efforts to develop a booster shot specifically targeting the Omicron variant.
• Air connectivity with seven African nations severed. The government has banned all travellers with recent travel history to seven African countries, namely Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, from entering into or transiting through Singapore. Returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents have to serve a 10-day stay-home notice (SHN) at dedicated facilities.
• High vaccination rate offers some protection for Singapore. As of 26 Nov 21, 94% of Singapore’s eligible population has completed their full regimen and received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines. 85% of the total population is fully vaccinated while 25% have received their booster shots.
• Taking a few steps backward. At the moment, Singapore has not detected any cases of the new Omicron variant. If the Omicron variant spreads to Singapore and results in an increase in hospitalisation, the government may have to tighten safe distancing measures to protect the healthcare system. Prime Minister Lee has warned that the multi-ministry taskforce may have to roll back some of the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions.