The Omicron variant reveals the true global danger of ‘vaccine apartheid’ | Larry Elliott

mobligatory face masks are back in England. The fear factor has returned. After months of assuming the Covid-19 pandemic was anything but over, the UK government has imposed new limits in an attempt to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Financial Markets didn’t wait for the announcement from Downing Street. It’s way too early to know how big a threat new tensions, but investors assumed the worst if soon when the reports came from southern Africa. Share prices fell sharply, with airline stocks the hardest hit like traveling bans were reintroduced.

toughness up limits in the West in response to Omicron is a classic case of closing the stable door after the horse has stalled, because for months the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been warning rich developed countries that an end to the pandemic is a bad one people as well as rich to be vaccinated.

Gordon Brown demands action from the G7 and G20 since the start of the year, pointing out that the west has built vaccines, it never will use while people in Africa is going wild. The former prime minister’s warnings have been ignored.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO), attempts to obtain a waiver on intellectual property rights so that countries like South Africa can produce their own jabs, are supported by the US but opposed by the EU, UK and Switzerland.

some rich countries claim that without a patent protection pharmaceutical companies would have no incentive to produce new vaccines and that, in in anyway, poor countries lack the technical manufacturing expertise to convert the formulas in Finished Products. Neither the IMF nor the US are convinced by this argument and the development countries shall voice their anger over “Vaccine Apartheid” At This Week’s WTO Ministerial Meeting in Geneva.

Whatever the outcome of the intellectual property row, it is already clear multilateralism has failed the test. If there ever was a time for some international solidarity this was it, but the west has over-promised and underdelivered.

Of course rich countries in Europe and North America have: run up big bills die Fighting Covid-19 and want to reduce budget shortages, but squeeze? on vaccines for develop countries would always be a false economy.

Either rich nations make it possible for arm countries to increase the puncture rate of they have to seal themselves off from the unvaccinated parts of the world. The fact that the first cases of have Omicron already reported in the UK shows how it is difficult to do the latter.

While the first duty of each government is to ensure the safety of its own people, there are times when this can only be done through collective action and this is one of them. Some problems to be global in nature.

Last month, the World Health Organization said: less than 10% of the 54 countries in Africa were on course to hit the target of vaccination 40% of their population at the end of 2021. Other variants likely follow.

the argument in favor of to donate more vaccines of renounce intellectual property rights remains the same as it has been since the start of the pandemic: the right thing to do is also self-interest.

that is true even in the best-case scenario where vaccines provide protection against Omicron and the new strain appears to be less transmissible than currently feared. Why? Because while some countries – like the UK – will try to adopt a wait-and-see attitude die others might be more risk- averse. Austria has imposed strict new lockdown restrictions last week because it is a relatively low vaccine (by European standards) rate led to a wave in the number of infections.

china, ver more important for the global economy than Austria, usually has a zerotolerance approach to Covid and could decide to close factories and ports, causing the already acute bottlenecks in the supply chain.

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The dilemma facing central banks will intensify. On the one hand, additional inflationary pressures will make the matter for higher interest stronger. On the other hand, the possibility that demand will weaken as consumers and businesses grow more careful would do nothing to justify it. The bank of England’s monetary policy committee receives briefings from Chris Whitty, the government chief of medical staff, and in the short one term what he says over the health consequences of Omicron can net be as important as any piece of economic data in determine what is met the borrowing costs.

And this is just the best case scenario. In the worst case, the new variant spreads quickly and vaccines only offer limited availability protection. infection rates rise and governments feel obligated to once again impose restrictions on economic activity. Whitty thinks the public will be less willing to accept curbs on their personal freedoms than they were in spring of 2020 and he is almost certainly right.

That who are vaccinated think they can live their lives normal. A lot of of the unvaccinated – the young, in special – feel the risk of they become seriously ill of dying of Covid is slim (which it is). Another lockdown wouldn’t just be economically harmful; it would be ignored by many and a hard sell politics.

If the worst happens, developed countries will only be able to blame themselves, because they do it in had their insides gift appearance new variants arise. There is still time to do the right thing. rich nations need until ensure vaccine targets in arm countries to be hit. She need to meet them financial promises. She need to stop met building vaccines, they never will use. She need to reverse aid cuts. She need patent waiver protection. She need to stop being so short sighted.

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