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Global: New variant risks

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The news of a strong new Covid variant emerging from South Africa showing signs of spreading in several countries is the subject of the markets today. While travel restrictions are coming from several countries and measures are already on the table due to the increasing cases, the concerns that the closures may progress are worrying the sectors, especially aviation. Considering the economic burden of the shutdown, one might worry about the risk of economies landing hard with an additional demand shock to the supply crisis. The assessment of this is; How much of a pandemic wave effect the new variant creates, how much we should worry about it, when we understand this, it can be made healthier.

 

What happened so far;

 

·        The UK imposes travel restrictions on six African countries (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe) due to a new COVID variant that experts call “the worst we’ve ever seen”. From Sunday, new arrivals to the UK will need to be quarantined in hotels.

·        Singapore has restricted entry to people who have been in South Africa and nearby countries in the past 14 days.

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·        The European Union proposed to stop air travel from South Africa.

·        90% of many new cases in South Africa were found to be caused by the new variant.

·        In Hong Kong, a traveler from South Africa was found to be carrying the variant

·        Israel has detected a case of a person who has recently traveled to Malawi.

·        British Health Minister Javid said that the new B.1.1.529 variant identified in South Africa “may be more contagious” than the Delta strain and warned that “the vaccines we currently have may be less effective”.

·        The variant has 30 mutations, which is twice the number of Delta. There is concern that these mutations may be likely to evade the immune response induced by previous infection and vaccination.

·        B.1.1.529 could be detected with a normal PCR test.

 

The elements to be understood now would be: How resistant is the new variant to existing vaccines, is it possible to avoid vaccines? If yes, is it more contagious or lethal? To what extent did the mutation change the virus’s ability to escape antibodies and infect?

 

Since we could not eliminate the view of the economy from the Covid filter; remains an element that we still need to take into account in risk assessment. Travel-related stocks seem to have taken the biggest hit in the markets right now. There are sharp decreases in oil, copper, nickel and aluminum prices.

 

WHO will meet today to discuss B.1.1.529 and decide whether it should be formally a cause for concern.

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