Omicron Variant of COVID-19, the Consequences of the Looming Lockdown

In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 which started in China and spread to few countries in 2019, caused most nations to impose serious restrictive measures in and into their countries. Non-essential businesses, schools, markets and even hospitals became no go arears as travel bans were imposed by many countries. This led to serious hunger, forcing many countries, including capitalist-oriented ones to resort to socialist policies as a way of ameliorating the excruciating pains passed through by its citizens

Omicron Variant of COVID-19, the Consequences of the Looming Lockdown

In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 which started in China and spread to few countries in 2019, caused most nations to impose serious restrictive measures in and into their countries. Non-essential businesses, schools, markets and even hospitals became no go arears as travel bans were imposed by many countries. This led to serious hunger, forcing many countries, including capitalist-oriented ones to resort to socialist policies as a way of ameliorating the excruciating pains passed through by its citizens.

 

As the restrictions and social distancing continued, it became obvious that many nations were becoming poorer by day. Nigeria for instance could no longer find buyers for its crude oil, the most important means of raising foreign revenue and exchange for investment, the country was plunged into its second recession in the life time of this administration, the worst since the birth of Nigeria. The recession was caused by many factors. The manufacturers could not import inputs and other intermediate products; thus, production was stalled. Second, workers were barred from office. Even if there were inputs for production, workers were not available to direct such processes. Third, while most workers were asked to stay at home with reduced or no salary, many were completely laid off and as such no monthly stipend for survival. This reduced the disposable income as well as the purchasing power of consumers, and as such affected the profitability of firms, many of which have not survived those harsh periods till now. The opportunity cost of this action was an increased poverty in the country.

 

Many nations around the world have eased down the restrictions or lockdowns, not because COVID-19 has been eradicated or the vaccine found, but to bring an end to the ensuing hunger that is ravaging their population. Apart from the fact that the original variant of the disease from China is still present, different variants have also developed. The latest being the “Omicrom variant”, said to be detected first in South Africa. The Omicron variant is of concern because it has a large number of mutations, some of which have been associated with potential increased transmissibility and possible immune escape, this means that there are chances people may get infected by it even if they have developed some natural immunity from previous COVID-19 infection, or following COVID-19 vaccination. Another issue about this variant is that its mutation has not been properly investigated and documented, hence, there is no proper health to guide actions against it.

 

In the light of the above, the omicron variant of the COVID-19 has generated a lot of fears among many nations. More than 50 nations, including the US, Canada, the UK, etc., have imposed stricter border controls as the variant is identified in 24 countries. So far, Canada, South Arabia, Tanzania have blocked flights in and out of their countries, the UK has announced a one moth restriction, Spain announced a state of emergency with a possibility of extension, France, Germany and Italy have also followed suit with new restrictions. These countries are undaunted by their actions despite WHO’s warning of likely worsening inequalities. The question now is, what will the consequences of this looming global restrictions, especially for countries like Nigeria, given the harsh experience of 2020?

 

Although the country has maintained a positive growth in GDP in the last four quarters since it exited the last recession in December 2020, the drop in the third quarter of 2021 real GDP growth to 4.03% from 5.01% in the second quarter could be worsened by this imminent global restriction and lockdown aimed at curtailing the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.  This will lead to the resurgence of the economic woes of 2020 which led to the losses of means of livelihoods and closure of businesses. While the manufacturing sector will be amongst the worst hit, the telecoms sector will again be the mostly patronized sector as most businesses will device to virtual transactions.

 

 The federal government has also announced its resolve to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry in 2022 in line with the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021. As said in the Nigerian parlance, deregulation, especially in the period of global restriction will “add pepper to salt” or worsen the already tensed situation of the average consumer who is facing a southward drop in the disposable income due to the increasing cost of living. Many industries will likely go moribund, given the low sales and the increasing production cost. It is therefore difficult to suggest that the outcome of deregulation in the period of global restriction against omicron variant of COVID-19 will be positive.

 

Indicative Actions

  • One of the easiest ways to avert one of the problems (inability to import inputs) during the 2020 lock down and global restriction is to begin to source for inputs locally.
  • Upgrade of infrastructures is also important because the restriction may cause more people, organisation and institutions to adopt virtual meetings for their daily activities. This will increase the traffic on the telecoms infrastructure. This is the season of more revenue for the firms under the industry.
  • In anticipation of the surge in the demand for internet and call services, adequate training should be given to telecoms staff as a way of preparing them for the period.