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Will the world be shut down again?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 30 - 11 - 2021

As of Monday, the number of people infected with coronavirus has risen to around 262 million around the world, while the number of confirmed deaths stands at over five million. Therefore, the heavily mutated Botswana variant, which is named "Omicron" by the World Health Organization (WHO), appears to be the latest horror sweeping the world, and opens the door to myriad questions.
This strain, which came from the southern part of the African continent, has already rocked the financial markets and pushed oil prices down.
The Omicron variant also triggered many questions about the hope of the recovery of the global economy, amid the hard times of rising inflation and disruption of supply chains. This new variant has forced several countries to cancel flights to and from South Africa and a number of other African countries.
Though initially the Botswana strain was limited to the south of the Brown Continent, now it has reached the Belgian capital of Brussels, which is the headquarters of the European Union, and then to Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, Denmark, Italy, and some other countries.
Since the outbreak of Omicron, the questions, for which there are no answers for anyone, have been multiplied: Will the countries of the world go back to shut down, after some countries announced a complete lockdown so as to protect the lives of their citizens? Will the Botswana-Omicronian attack lead to a ban on Christmas and New Year's celebrations in Europe and America? Will the policies of banning flights lead to a new global isolation, and a further harsher blow to the travel and tourism industries? Will all these measures contribute to stem the spread of this new strain of coronavirus?
The most worrisome question is: will this mutated strain compromise the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines? The majority of experts confirm that Omicron has highly contagious spread in southern Africa, prompting scientists in London to warn severely that Botswana strain could nullify the efficacy of the anti-coronavirus vaccine by 40 percent.
And from what we have seen of reports about the number of people infected with this mutated variant, and what we are witnessing of a regression of medical isolation procedures, forced medical checks, suspension of flights, and returning to maintaining physical distancing, no one can but speculate that the world will have to pay a heavy price for this variant economically, healthily, and socially.
Even if laboratory studies have later proved that Omicron is less dangerous than many people think, that there will be unwanted consequences.
Perhaps the only reason for reassurance is the pledges of major pharmaceutical companies that they can produce updated versions of vaccines against coronavirus, within a period not exceeding the first quarter of 2022.
This in itself is relative reassurance because of the fact that administering more than 7.9 billion doses of vaccines around the world had not prevented the acceleration of the spread of the mutated Delta variant.
Certainly, what is most worrisome is that confronting Botswana strain, with its 32 genetic mutations, which is twice the number of mutated Delta variant, requires countries to quickly take strict preventive measures so that the world does not go back to square one, and normal life would not be impacted by another lockdown!


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