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Omicron adds new uncertainties to global economic outlook: Moody's Analytics

In its commentary titled 'Much to Learn About OmicronFast’, Moody’s Analytics said although the variant appears to spread ”remarkably quickly”, it will be at least two more weeks before more will be known about this new variant.

November 29, 2021 / 06:57 PM IST

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 adds new uncertainties to the global economic outlook but much will depend on its speed of transmission, hospitalisation and death rates, and also the effectiveness of vaccines, Moody’s Analytics said on Monday.

In its commentary titled 'Much to Learn About OmicronFast’, Moody’s Analytics said although the variant appears to spread ”remarkably quickly”, it will be at least two more weeks before more will be known about this new variant.

Also Read: Omicron virus: 5 medical experts weigh in on COVID-19 variant

Also Read: How Omicron, the New COVID-19 Variant, Got Its Name

"The Omicron variant of COVID-19 adds new measures of uncertainty to the outlook for the global economy, although it is too soon to adequately quantify that risk. Much will depend on its speed of transmission, virulence, associated rates of hospitalization and death, and also the effectiveness of vaccines and antiviral medications against it,” Moody’s Analytics, Chief APAC Economist, Steve Cochrane said.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Also Read: Countries where Omicron has been found so far

The new and potentially more contagious variant Omicron was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24.

It has since been identified in about 12 more countries including Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel, UK, Germany and Australia.

On Friday, it was designated a Variant of Concern’ by the WHO, which named it Omicron.

A Variant of Concern’ is the WHO’s top category of worrying Covid-19 strain.

Moody’s Analytics said it will be at least two more weeks before more will be known as scientists around the world build a better understanding of the new variant and as the severity of infections becomes clearer.

India, which battled the deadly second wave blamed on the Delta variant in April-May, faces the Omicron challenge after easing curbs to a large extent following an improvement in the situation.

Moody’s Analytics further said that for the Asia-Pacific region there are specific factors to follow in coming weeks, particularly as at least two cases of Omicron have already been detected in Hong Kong and Australia.

"First, will policymakers in the region respond by accelerating vaccination programs? Countries including Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam have still vaccinated less than 65 per cent of their populations (12 years of age and older),” it said.

Stating that already, travel and tourism is expected to be one of the slowest components of the APAC economic recovery, Moody’s Analytics said what the new variant will mean for travel across the land border between Hong Kong and mainland China remains uncertain.

"The new Omicron variant illustrates the existing risk to the global economy from regions or individual countries that have low vaccination rates. This includes all of sub-Saharan Africa, where rates remain below 50 per cent, and 60 countries globally with rates below 20 per cent,” it said.
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