It has been a roller-coaster week on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial swung by nearly 1,000 points from peak to trough on Wednesday after news of the first known case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus was reported in California.
According to a Singapore-based infectious doctor, the virus will likely “overwhelm the whole world” in the coming months.
Dr. Leong Hoe Nam told CNBC that “frankly, omicron will dominate and overwhelm the whole world in three to six months.”
However, one of the doctors credited with discovering the Omicron variant says the media’s vast overreaction is unwarranted.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee told Reuters that the hype “that’s been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture.” She added, “It doesn’t warrant to just cut us off from traveling and bans South Africa as if we are the villains in the whole process—should not be like that.”
Dr. Coetzee said that so far those who she has observed infected with omicron were showing mild symptoms and that “there’s no reason for panicking as we don’t see severely ill patients.”
Coetzee said that “I also checked with the hospital, some of the hospitals in my area, and one of the biggest hospitals they only have one patient currently that’s COVID-positive on a ventilator, and they don’t even know whether it’s COVID — you know, it’s Delta, or whether it is Omicron-related.”
The leader of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkensgasong, implored people to be patient and to “give us some time…it’s very early.” He added: “It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed his frustration with foreign nations—including the United States—that have banned flights to and from South Africa and seven other southern African nations due to the Omicron variant.
Ramaphosa said, “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of Southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant.”
He continued, “These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant.”
The World Health Organization on Friday assigned the Greek letter Omicron to the newly-identified COVID variant in South Africa.
According to CNBC, “Health experts are deeply concerned about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant given that it has an unusual constellation of mutations and a profile that is different from other variants of COVID.”
The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest virus strain but urged caution until more is known about the seriousness of the strain.
WHO COVID-19 expert Maria Van Kerkhove said, “We’re calling a special meeting to discuss this, not to cause alarm, but because we have this system in place.” She added: “We can bring these scientists together and discuss ‘What does it mean?’ and also set the timeline for how long it will take for us to get those answers.”
The new African variant was found in two patient samples taken as early as August and October in Nigeria. However, the seriousness of transmissibility and mortality rates are still not known.
Strap in. It could be a bumpy ride on Wall Street over the coming months. Whether investors are overreacting to Omicron is still to be determined.