New variant, Omicron
In the end of November, 2021, World Health Organization (WHO) classified B.1.1.529 variant as Omicron. WHO received the report of its first case from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has experienced three distinct peaks in reported cases. In fact, the latest one was predominantly the Delta variant. However, infections had increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant.
What’s more, this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. In fact, the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.
As a result, several countries and region including the US, the UK and the EU, introduced travel ban policy. Also, other countries set new policies for foreigners. For instance, Israel and Japan do not admit all foreign people’s entry into each country. Therefore, we can easily imagine that this new variant affects the travel industry including airline, hotel, restaurant and others. Of course, the airline industry is facing the difficult situation because the number of flights should be decreasing.
Countermeasures and economic activities
First of all, we know the fact that there is no perfect solution against the pandemic. There is no vaccine to prevent us from being infected by every virus. A lot of people need to speak to other people when they are working. Also, it is natural that family members want to spend the same time together if they can. Therefore, the more people interact with each other, the more new cases will be expected. In this sense, “social distance” can be one way to reduce the spread of the virus.
However, the economy of each country is important at the same time. How can most people live in this world without any salary? Therefore, each country’s government always tries to find the better (not the best) way to balance its economic activities and countermeasures for the pandemic.
At the moment, most governments decided to take a time to understand the new variant. This is because we need more data and time to understand important issues including the effectiveness of vaccines. In fact, without foreign tourists, each country can keep its economic activities. Of course, the measures will have a negative impact on countries and regions strongly rely on foreign visitors.
For example, the tourism industry in Spain accounted for more than 10% of its GDP before the pandemic. Therefore, it caused huge damage on both the industry and the country in 2020. Thanks to high vaccination rate, the country opens its borders in the summer of 2021 and many tourists visit it again. Also, the US lifted its travel ban from Spain in the beginning of November, 2021.
The new variant changed the situation simply because tourists will be reluctant to go to other countries or cannot. However, our media thinks every situation has both opportunities and risks. In fact, Barcelona ranks the 3rd in the EU cities for Coronavirus innovation. Thus, we can expect the Catalan city will realize more innovations to combat this tough situation.