I was preparing my thoughts on the devastating weather hitting British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, when I started seeing the stories about a newly discovered variant of the COVID, now called Omicron.
It seems like we are not out from under the grip of COVID quite yet, even here in heavily vaccinated Canada. While we might be telling each other how tired we are of the virus, clearly it isn’t tired of us.
What is Omicron?
First detected in Gauteng, South Africa, Omicron is being discovered in new locations all the time. I can’t possibly keep up. The list of countries with detected cases is growing by the hour. And as of the 28th, it had even been detected here I Ontario.
The World Health Organization met last week to discuss the threat, give it a name, and begin the process of trying to bring it under control. While modern science may be push address new threats like this quickly, the availability of world travel allows for the virus to spread even faster than that.
The more things change the more they stay the same
Reactions by health and travel authorities are following a now familiar pattern. Flight cancellations and travel restrictions for countries where Omicron either originated or quickly spread to are being put in place. And where travellers have already arrived, they are being tested and placed into quarantine to help limit the spread of this particular mutation.
The lessons we learned from previous waves may help us limit its spread in the days and weeks to come.
But our best defensive options haven’t changed. Get vaccinated and practice social distancing wherever possible. In the end we’re all in this together.
And as many commentators have pointed out “no one is safe until we are all safe”. At last report, only about half of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. This compares to over ¾ in Canada and 60% in the United States.
It’s more than just a health crisis
The Dow Jones on Friday November 26 took a pounding, as investors considered the prospect of another crippling round of business and supply chain disruptions. I hear Command Central at the North Pole has returned to Code Red and placed Rudolph on emergency standby.
Kidding aside, it’s important to stay calm. Although we know that Omicron is out there, we don’t know how it is going to affect people. But health officials in South Africa seem to be suggesting that Omicron’s symptoms are relatively minor.
Meanwhile the world economy is trying to get back to normal, as production levels ramp up and supply chains return to normal.
Most of the economic problems triggered by COVID are short term or cyclical. Your investment portfolio is long term. You need to treat it that way.
Yes, the markets took a heavy hit on Friday, November 27, as investors began to contemplate additional significant business disruptions. The fact that there was a short trading day on Thursday because of American Thanksgiving has been blamed for some of the disruption, but the instability of events as the Omicron story unfolds is the central cause of the disruption.
And it’s impossible to predict how markets will react in the next couple of weeks, as this story continues to unfold.
When we look at recent history, we know the stock market plummeted in the immediate aftermath of the first COVID wave.
And it’s easy to see a repeat of those market trends this time around as well.
But we need to remember that much of those losses in the spring and summer of 2020 have already returned to normal pre-COVID ranges already.
This might be the most important thing to take away from Friday’s market difficulties. The stock exchange can act dramatically in reaction to very specific world or business events. But most of the time those dramatic reactions are quicky drawn upon only in the term of their immediate impact.
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