The arrival of the Omicron variant has thrown the travel world into turmoil once again and while everyone wants to believe preliminary reports that the strain may be milder, the truth is that it’s really too early to know.
“The idea that this variant is milder is just pure speculation. There is no reason to think it is,” said Michael Worobey, who heads the department of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona in a CNN report.
In the same report, Dr. William Schaffner, medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University said there simply hasn’t been enough time to know everything there is to know about Omicron.
“There’s a distinction between hopeful and reality. It’s good to hope but it is much too early to conclude that Omicron only produces mild infections. We don’t have those data,” Schaffner told CNN.
Even if it is milder, scientists believe Omicron could be more transmissible and overtake Delta as the most dominant strain which could end up overwhelming healthcare networks through the sheer number of infections.
As long as there remains a large pool of unvaccinated people around the world, the virus will continue to mutate and there are now reports that a “stealth” strain of Omicron may exist that is harder to detect. There is also evidence that the Omicron strain may be more resistant to Pfizer and other mRNA vaccines.
Despite the uncertainty, the travel industry is jumping on the hope that Omicron might just be a blip on the radar which is why investors are eying travel stocks as a buying opportunity.
“We view data coming out of the U.S. as a positive leading indicator for demand trends in Canada heading into the holiday season and 2022,” ATB said in a note to clients.
In the cruise world, news of the new variant hasn’t put a damper on Wave Season, the traditional selling period for the coming year, according to Travel News Report.
“My crystal ball broke about two years ago but I still see an extended wave season,” said Sean Schultz, owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Daphne, Alabama. “I don’t see demand dropping off at all. It may be a challenge for where people can go, but the demand is there.”
Despite that optimism, world governments have enacted travel restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.
While scientists in the United Kingdom are criticizing such restrictions as being too late to be useful, there is widespread support for them in Canada, according to a poll reported by the Canadian Press.
“Yes, this variant is concerning. Yes it will likely be more resistant to neutralization. But is this variant a monster? Probably not. The vaccines will work against this variant,” said Marc-André Langlois, a molecular virologist at the University of Ottawa who heads the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network in a CBC report.
“To what extent? That’s the question.”