The World Health Organization confirmed that not much is known about the variant, with the doctor behind the discovery reporting “extremely mild” symptoms.
Stock markets in Asia Pacific showed signs of stabilization as investors braced for weeks of uncertainty over whether the alternative Omicron could derail the global economic recovery.
Trading was choppy early Monday but there were signs of recovery with S&P 500 futures up 0.8 percent and Nasdaq futures up 0.9 percent.
On Friday, both indices suffered their biggest declines in monthsWith shares of airlines and travel in particular hurt.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.1 percent but was far from early lows.
Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.02 percent to 28,746.49 by the midday holiday, after falling 1.4 percent earlier in the session. Australia’s ASX 200 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng pared early morning losses later in the day.
Two-year Treasury yields rose to 0.55 percent, after dropping 14 basis points on Friday in the biggest drop since March of last year. Fed fund futures prompted the first rate hike for a month or so.
Oil prices also rebounded $3 a barrel to offset some shelling on Friday, while the safe-haven yen took a breather after rallying.
Marcel Thilliant, an economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, told Al Jazeera that the implications of this change for the regional economy are not well-defined.
“A more transmissible alternative could lead to more disruptions and restrictions on local activity, particularly in China given its COVID-free strategy,” Thilliant said. “At the same time, Asian exporters will benefit if the rest of the world imposes renewed constraints on spending on services and thus spending on goods remains strong.”
‘Extremely mild’ symptoms
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the Omicron strain as a “variant of concern”, but stressed that it is not yet clear whether it is more dangerous or transmissible. The World Health Organization said that “preliminary evidence” indicates that the variant may infect people who have recovered from COVID-19 more easily than other strains.
Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who alerted the world to this type, told the BBC on Sunday that the symptoms she had seen on patients so far had been “very mild” and she believed the world at this point was needlessly panicking.
However, dozens of countries have closed their borders to the southern part of Africa in response to the change, with Asia-Pacific countries including Singapore, Australia and Japan implementing or considering broader travel restrictions.
Trine de Nguyen, chief economist at Natixis, told Al Jazeera that the alternative was a risk, but she remained “optimistic” about the area’s reopening and recovery.
“Very little is known about the new variant, and there is news that symptoms are milder than in South Africa,” Nguyen said. “Asia excluding China has achieved marginal opening after being suppressed by a variable delta and markets are being cautious, especially tourism-prone economies like Thailand that depend not only on their openness but the rest of the world willing to live with COVID-19, variable or not, given that we now have the tools to fight virus.”
“We remain optimistic about the opening of the region and see this as a risk but hope that the world has evolved to adopt an endemic strategy because we have more knowledge and tools to combat the virus.”