Barely a few days after Singapore moved into the “Transition Phase”, the WHO declared the Omicron variant on 26 November 2021. This immediately resulted in a deferment of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While community measures against COVID-19 have remained unchanged as of time of writing, the tightening of border restrictions, international travel and resumption of PCR Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) for airport and other border frontline workers have put a temporary pause to Singapore’s reopening measures.
With the Omicron variant raising international public health concerns, businesses may be cautious about the future relaxation of safe management measures (and rightly so). We take a look at the sectors that are most likely to take a hit due to the Omicron variant.
The aviation industry has barely begun their road to recovery with the recently opened VTLs before they are hit with news of the Omicron variant. Internationally, border restrictions have been rapidly implemented to slow the spread of the new variant. While the existing VTLs have not been rescinded, the planned VTLs to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE have been deferred. The travel requirements have also been tightened with additional on-arrival PCR test and ART tests for travellers entering Singapore.
In the worst-case situation that the Omicron variant is as transmissible and dangerous as feared, the aviation sector would likely see another clamp-down in border restrictions, grounding flights that have barely begun to take off.
The Bloomberg New Economy Forum held in November was supposed to be a turning point for the events industry or MICE (referring to meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) as it signaled the possible return to business as usual (albeit with COVID-19 testing and safety measures).
About a thousand staff, volunteers and vendors, and about 300 participants were involved and the event saw testing and safety measures implemented without a hitch. Its success as a pilot scheme boded well for the resumption of MICE.
However, as with international travel, the MICE industry is likely to see another halt as the global community grapples with the new Omicron variant and international leaders and businesses take a pause to assess its ramifications.
For many F&B establishments, the relaxation of dining measures from 2 to 5 pax was just in time to resuscitate the much-beleaguered sector.
While the many false starts of dining restrictions and relaxations may have made F&B establishments wary of the new Omicron variant, many cannot afford to not proceed with operations. Missing out on the revenue from the year-end festive period may spell doom for some of the smaller players and even larger players may be feeling the strain as the revenues from deliveries and takeout are poor substitutes for in-person dining for most establishments.
However, with many establishments expecting an increase in diners due to the end-of-year festivities, a sudden implementation of dining restrictions may mean another bout of food and supply wastage and loss of revenue that they can ill-afford.
#4 Sectors That Have Been Closed Or Significantly Affected Previously
For many businesses, the greatest risk that the Omicron variant poses is a return of stricter safe management measures. Aside from the 3 sectors mentioned above, sectors affected by previous rounds of tightened measures include gyms and fitness studios, performing arts and arts education, retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries and historical sites, family entertainment and tourism.
While the SingapoRediscovers vouchers (and recent extension) are meant to help the tourism industries, the deferred return of international visitors is likely to hamper the recovery of the sector. Likewise, a return of tightened measures would likely wear down the already affected sectors. For retail, cinemas, and local attractions, the end of year is typically the peak period of larger customer volumes. A return of tightened measures due to the Omicron variant would be a hard pill to swallow (again).
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