As the world just started turning around after the first and second shocks from the Corona, its new variant, Omicron, is giving the world an anxious time. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already described it as a 'variant of concern and high risk'. As a result, many countries have started taking various steps to deal with this new variant. Some European countries have already begun partial or full lockdowns. The health department of Bangladesh has sent 15-point instructions to field officials as a preliminary step to tackle it. The renewed concern around the world about Omicron indicates that if it is not stopped in time, it will make people suffer more than the previous two variants did.
The damage caused by Covid-19 to the global health sector is irreparable. The world economy has also become fragile. In this situation, if Omicron takes a terrible turn, it may trigger high inflation, rising fuel prices, food shortages. Already food inflation has become a cause for concern everywhere, including in Bangladesh. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global food price index stood at 133.2 points in October, up 31.3 per cent from the same period last year. Thus imports, exports and investment can be severely affected by Omicron. Bangladesh's export sectors will likely to be threatened. More than 80 per cent of the country's export products are ready-made garments. The country's economy is largely dependent on this sector. The biggest market of this sector is Europe and USA. If lockdown is slapped in major export destinations in Europe, export of garments will suffer.
Omicron will also have its impact on remittance flows or expatriate income. Countries, including Bangladesh, which depend heavily on workers' remittance, may face reversals in its earning. Due to Corona, there was a slight decline in remittance last year. After that the pace of remittance flow increased for some time but recently the remittance flow has declined a bit. According to a report, remittances in the first four months of the 2021-22 fiscal year reached more than 7.0 billion--- 19.97 per cent less than the same period of the previous fiscal year. Economists believe that the main causes behind the decline in remittances are the inability of expatriates to return to work on their coming home. Complexities in getting Covid-19 vaccine and test along with inadequate flights high fare are among the reasons for them not to be able to get back to their workplaces abroad.
If Omicron spreads rapidly worldwide, the healthcare sector will face another catastrophe. Adequate corona vaccination has not yet been confirmed in many countries due to insufficient vaccine supply and vaccine discrimination. On the other hand, research has already begun on whether the corona virus vaccine will be effective in suppressing Omicron. Indeed, if the corona vaccine fails or is ineffective in preventing Omicron, the question of when a new vaccine will be discovered or what to do next will be a matter of great concern. In this situation, if the world leaders, forgetting their differences, stand together to deal with Omicron properly, things will get better for the global population. Bangladesh needs to be prepared for dealing with the situation by utilising its previous lessons and experiences gained during the Delta-variant surge. At the same time, adult citizens need to be vaccinated as soon as possible. It can be said without any hesitation that just as the government alone could not prevent the corona, so the new variant of the corona cannot be prevented by the government alone. People from all walks of life must come forward to tackle it. Proper hygiene rules must be followed. Everyone should always be accustomed to wearing mask. With combined efforts of all, the onslaught of Omicron can hopefully be prevented.
Monirul Haque Rony is Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Savar Government College, Savar, Dhaka.