‘Omicron could dent global economic growth’
The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender’s chief said on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic.
Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said.
Much remains unknown about Omicron. Researchers said it could have picked up genetic material from another virus, perhaps one that causes the common cold, which would allow it to more easily evade human immune system defences.
By inserting this particular snippet into itself, Omicron might be making itself look “more human”, which would help it evade attack by the human immune system, said Venky Soundararajan of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based data analytics firm nference, who led the study posted on Thursday on the website OSF Preprints.
Parts of Europe and the US are grappling with a wave of infections of the more familiar Delta variant. The new strain could further destabilise economies that are still emerging from Covid-19 related lockdowns and disruptions.
The variant has now reached at least 10 US states, and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said there is “absolutely” community spread.
The states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland and Nebraska reported Omicron infections on Friday, and cases are guaranteed to keep on increasing in the coming days, according to Fauci.
Covid-19 infections in the US are at the highest level in two months. Infections had been rising even before the discovery and arrival of Omicron. The seven-day average of cases in the US was 100,835 as of Thursday, the most since October 6, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
Cases of the Omicron in the Norwegian capital of Oslo linked to a corporate Christmas party may rise to as many as 100, public broadcaster NRK reported. So far it has resulted in at least 13 infections, making it the biggest outbreak outside of South Africa, officials said.
England has identified 75 more infections caused by the Omicron variant, tripling the total caseload to 104.
Separately, China reported 75 new infections of Covid-19, as an outbreak in a border town expanded. Inner Mongolia, where the flare-up is concentrated, added 61 cases, and a further three people without symptoms also tested positive, the National Health Commission said, without specifying if any infections were due to Omicron.