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Te Whanganui-a-Tara – Transparency on the implications of Omicron may not emerge for some few weeks, and until then uncertainty permeates the planet. Will New Zealand close its borders again until clarity arrives?

Drawing on earlier scenario work, here are a number of outcomes to consider to help leaders proactively structure their decision-making and prepare for a range of future situations.

World leaders can build on the arrival of the Omicron variant to intensify efforts to defeat covid globally.

The Omicron variant has dominated headlines, prompted dramatic government reactions, and sparked a renewed interest in pandemic forecasts.

Epidemiologists and scientists offer tentative hypotheses based on sparse but rapidly accumulating data.

This presents the challenge for leaders’ decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, and in a context where we cannot afford to be paralyzed by fast-moving events.

Accenture Research and the Salesforce Futures team recently completed five-year scenarios, drawing on a framework for how the pandemic might evolve and interact with a wider range of global challenges and opportunities, and developed implications for business leaders.

The Omicron variant  possibilities centre of the nature of the virus; a capacity to prevent and contain its spread; and the susceptibility of populations, given vaccination levels and waning immunity.

As the World Health Organisation has said that early analyses of Omicron’s mutations suggest the potential for higher transmission than the Delta variant, more risk of reinfection and a reduction in the ability of vaccines to prevent infection, serious illness and even death.

Even if Omicron outcompetes Delta on transmissibility and becomes dominant globally, anecdotal evidence of mild clinical outcomes offers hope that it may have no worse effects than earlier variants. If this proves true, Omicron’s lasting impact on the pandemic could be unexpectedly positive.

This possible future is important not only because it may happen, but also because the mindset shift towards proactive, global collaboration on vaccines it requires stands across other, more negative scenarios.

The world can benefit from lessons learned on what not to do and pragmatic advances in best practice. It can use genuinely novel scientific and technological advances about how to contain and treat illness. And the rapid modifiability of vaccines to new variants sets a timeline for a return to normality made possible by vaccination, reducing overall uncertainty.

If a vaccine-evasive Omicron, were to force new lockdowns, Kiwis might see demand and supply constrained as they were in the early days of the pandemic in 2020.

This may shed light on whether current inflation is truly demand- or supply-driven. If it is demand driven, inflation will decline, barring additional monetary and fiscal stimulus.