COVID-19 Omicron: New Variant, Same Headaches
Contagious diseases are typically named in Latin, with each new mutation or variation of the original disease designated with a letter of the Greek alphabet. For those following along at home, the major COVID-19 variants are colloquially associated with their Greek designation — namely, Delta and now, Omicron.
Omicron is quickly causing serious problems. Officially identified in November 2021, it’s already become a global concern — particularly for factory operators.
An overview of Omicron
Scientists designated variant B.1.1.529, aka Omicron, on November 26, 2021. Currently, it’s not clear whether Omicron is more transmissible or severe than other COVID-19 variants.
According to the World Health Organization, there are increasing rates of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in South Africa, but this could be due to increasing infection rates overall — as opposed to infections specific to the Omicron variant. Speculation that Omicron is behind the increase is primarily related to the timing of the variant’s identification and the upswing in new cases.
Omicron is on the move
While it’s not certain whether Omicron is more contagious than other COVID-19 variants, South Africa is seeing high infection numbers. Just a month ago, the country had a rate of 300 new virus cases per day, but recent numbers show new cases are up to around 16,000 per day.
“As the country heads into a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, we are experiencing a rate of infections that we have not seen since the pandemic started,” President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote about the recent increase in COVID-19 infections, “Nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 tests now come back positive. Compare this to two weeks ago, when the proportion of positive tests was sitting at around 2 percent.”
Scientists are currently conducting epidemiologic studies to determine whether the Omicron variant or other factors caused the high infection rates. That said, health officials speculate Omicron could be among the most contagious COVID-19 variants. It’s already appeared in 30 countries on six continents.
Several countries have put Omicron-related travel restrictions in place, including Angola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Germany.
What does Omicron mean for manufacturing?
Each new COVID-19 variant presents problems for factories due to their close work proximities and the nature of production itself. China has already seen massive factory disruptions due to successive variants, and Omicron promises to offer more of the same. While it seemed like the domestic manufacturing industry was on the road to recovery from the negative effects of COVID-19, the Omicron variant could soon cause disruptions like those in Chinese factories.
Are new variants the new norm?
Omicron may not be much of a departure from other variants of COVID-19, but manufacturers still need to prepare themselves to protect their workers and their factories — again. Hold true to established protocols, act diligently to protect workers, and abide by preventive and proactive measures. It’s looking more and more like COVID-19 is here to stay, and new variants may be the new norm.