Omicron Variant Identified in US and Supply Chains Must Prepare for the Worst

By Logan Wamsley

In a new but not unexpected development for supply chains, the first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant has been identified in California. According to Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, the individual in question had recently completed a trip to South Africa before the travel restrictions were in place. The positive test occurred on November 29.

Fauci also stated that the individual is experiencing only mild symptoms. The individual was also fully vaccinated at the time of infection, although they had not received a booster shot.

It is important to note that although this development should be noted, health experts stated that it was highly likely the Omicron variant has already spread around most of the world including countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan. According to the World Health Organization, Omicron is considered a “variant of concern” and poses a “very high” global risk. Concern, however, does not mean overreaction. Indeed, President Joe Biden has called the variant “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” and that “we’ll have to face this new threat just as we’ve faced those that have come before it.”

Other countries are being more immediate in their mitigation efforts. China, for example, is continuing a “zero-COVID” policy that will not rule out city lockdowns, quarantines, and strict checks at ports of ships and cargo. Given China’s importance in the global supply chain, these measures could have significant global repercussions.

As more details emerge, now is the time for organizations who rely on extensive global supply chains to take preparations for long-term disruptions that could last well into 2022 and beyond. This includes early purchasing of critical inventory before prices increase, initiating last time buys of components that are anticipated to be obsoleted, and keeping constant vigilance over bills of material through BOM monitoring in order to anticipate shortages lead time disruptions.

As Per Hong, senior partner at consulting firm Kearney, says Omicron will be “another test of resilience” for supply chains. In order to past the tests the later years may bring, the adoption of new solutions are absolutely necessary.