Over the two-year-plus course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has seen many Covid-19 variants — like Alpha, Beta and Delta — come and go, with major implications for businesses. Often, the emergence of a new, concerning variant has led to the enforcement of a new lockdown and the work-related restrictions that go with it.
One of the most obvious of those restrictions has been the requirement to work from home. So, with a relatively recent Covid-19 variant — the Omicron BA.2 variant — having made the news, it begs the question: is now a good time for businesses to resist a lax approach to Covid restrictions?
What is the Omicron BA.2 variant?
Of course, you might already know a lot about Omicron, an especially contagious variant that first emerged in late 2021. However, Omicron has since spawned a sub-variant: BA.2, which has been dubbed a “stealth variant” due to how easily it can elude detection even in PCR tests.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKI Health Security Agency (UKHSA), warned — in words quoted by the Mirror — that “the increasing presence of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron and the recent slight increase in infections in those over 55 show that the pandemic is not over and that we can expect to see Covid circulating at high levels.”
She added: “Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid-19 infection. We urge you to come forward for your primary or booster doses straight away if you have not already done so.”
What sensible steps could businesses take?
So, many businesses can feel at least somewhat at ease if many of their employees are already vaccinated against Covid-19. Furthermore, workers previously infected with the original Omicron strain, otherwise known as BA.1, are unlikely to find themselves reinfected with BA.2.
University of Leeds School of Medicine virologist Dr Stephen Griffin explains as quoted by i: “If you were infected with BA.1, then you’re probably well protected from BA.2 — but the protection is not complete.” So, what other measures could workers be encouraged to take?
If any of them need to take business trips, such as to attend conferences or any other corporate events, the businesses employing these people could advise them to continue wearing masks on planes as well as in other public indoor spaces.
“Definitely, the highest risk is when you’re getting on the plane and getting off it,” epidemiologist Gigi Gronvall tells Insider. The Senior Scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security also warns that, though planes’ ventilation systems work well during a flight, “if you have somebody who’s sitting in the row in front of you who’s coughing, the air handling system’s not gonna help you with that”.
Where possible, then, workers could swap their in-person meetings for online ones, such as webinars. If you are now asking “what is a webinar”, well, rest assured that, with the right webinar software at your disposal, you should be able to get up to speed relatively quickly.