Newsletter #95 - The world's in an Omnicron limbo

How bad will Omicron be? Will vaccines still work?

Since the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant, scientists are working at breakneck speed to understand the new variant. So far, experts say Omicron is likely to be more infectious than past strains, but the exact impact on health is yet to be determined.

With Omicron's emergence, governments are treading carefully as many countries are setting new travel restrictions, and businesses are rethinking their return-to-office plans.

Yet on the bright side, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred innovation in the biotech and medical industry. We've managed to develop new genetic vaccines that are effective in a short span of time and we’re seeing new uses for wearable devices like smartwatches that can monitor our health and predict illnesses that might impinge public health.

As we await more information about the Omicron variant, let’s all remain alert and adaptable, not anxious.

Stay positive and test negative,

Team NC

⚕️ Living & dealing with Omicron

#TRENDS

APAC wants to live with Covid, but Omicron threatens reopening plans [CNN]

Some APAC countries want to delay reopening - In one of the strongest reactions to Omicron, Japan shut its borders to almost all non-citizens, including international students, business travelers and people visiting family. Australia, which began reopening a month ago after more than a year of tough border controls, has also delayed plans to allow migrants and international students into the country for two weeks over Omicron concerns.

Others want to wait and see - One country not making major changes amid the Omicron scramble is China, likely due to the fact its travel restrictions are already extremely tight with few foreigners able to enter the country. Singapore, which was one of the first countries in APAC to announce a blueprint for living with Covid, also appears to be taking a wait and see approach.

What the future holds - Right now, countries are in a “fog of war” where we have many uncertainties over the Omicron variant and we don't want to be caught off guard if it evades vaccines or causes serious illness. But on the other hand, lifting restrictions can be imprudent and the only way to go, according to some experts, is to have “phased in, progessive relaxation” and a careful tracking of vaccination rates.

#BUSINESS

What will happen to return-to-office plans? [CNBC]

Delays in return-to-office plans - With Omicron emerging as the new year approaches, office reopenings are yet again up in the air, and business leaders are scrambling to figure out how it could impact their workplaces, including return-to-office plans. Google, for one, has delayed its return-to-office yet again, this time pushing its full reopening in January further into 2022.

How should businesses respond? - Businesses will likely stay tight-lipped about any reopening plans or changes to their workplace health and safety policies until they know more about the variant in the coming weeks. Businesses should remain flexible, including not requiring people to work onsite if they don’t have to, said Dr Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at CUNY.

Meanwhile, Dr David Levy, CEO at preventive health company EHE, urges employees to not get discouraged if the messaging from their leadership changes in the coming weeks. “People need to understand that in this business, the facts change,” he says, “and it doesn’t mean the messenger lacks integrity, but we’re dealing with rapidly moving facts and conditions.”

#TECH

Medical innovations that will outlast the pandemic [The Conversation]

Genetic vaccines - 30 years ago, researchers created gene-based vaccines for the first time. However, it’s only until 2019 that gene-based vaccines were effective enough to grant good immunity. By the time Covid-19 hit, mRNA vaccines (a type of gene-based vaccine) were put to the real test and the 94% efficacy of the mRNA vaccines surpassed health officials’ highest expectations.

With that, the hopes of gene-based vaccines providing a vaccine for malaria or HIV, cure cancer, replace less effective traditional vaccines or be ready to preemptively stop the next pandemic are no longer far-fetched.

Wearable tech and early illness detection - As wearable tech’s popularity grew in recent years, researchers are studying how these devices can monitor disease and found that wearables can detect symptoms of Covid-19 or other illnesses before symptoms are noticeable. In a post-pandemic world, more people are likely to use wearables to monitor their personal health, helping us predict not only viral outbreaks, but other public health concerns like food poisoning and seasonal flu.

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