For the first time in two years, the coronavirus is not the No. 1 issue affecting global markets. Instead, oil prices—and the war in Ukraine—have become the top disruptors slowing trade and driving up costs.
That doesn’t mean COVID is going away just yet. Governments have been lifting restrictions imposed to slow its spread, including rules governing travel, socializing, mask wearing, and self-isolation. But still it lingers, and in some countries it is thriving.
What does that mean for disposable gloves? Demand is going to remain high—especially in healthcare environments, of course, but also for industrial applications as employees return to the workplace in far greater numbers. Look for continued high usage in the food service and jan/san industries especially.
The arguments for limits still persist
Reactions from scientists to the policy changes have been mixed. Some assert that reopening society has been rushed due to pressure on politicians to return to “normal.” Others are taking a wait-and-see approach while supporting continued testing, especially in high-risk environments such as hospitals, care homes, and prisons.
The BA.2 subvariant of Omicron—also known as “stealth Omicron,” a more transmissible version—is driving up cases in Europe and Asia, notably in Hong Kong. It now accounts for over 50% of infections in the U.S.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said in mid-March that “we likely will see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K. Hopefully we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”
No rush to mask up again (yet)
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has argued that the U.S. needs to be prepared to resume measures such as requiring masks in indoor public spaces, Fauci said, “right now, at this point, I don’t see that.”
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that even if the variant caused a new spike in cases, the country is in a better position now than it was in the previous two years, when COVID-19 “defined our lives.”
The story is different in Asia. Hong Kong—a city of 7 million that quickly transformed from one of the safest places during the pandemic to having what’s believed to be the highest rate of COVID deaths in the world—saw deaths soar from fewer than 300 to nearly 5,000 in less than a month.
China resorts to lockdowns
Concerns have spilled into mainland China, which is facing its worst outbreak since the disease was first reported in Wuhan in early 2020. Authorities have reacted by locking down neighborhoods in such major cities as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and the entire province of Jilin, affecting tens of millions of people.
The bottom line is that COVID is not going away entirely. In fact, experts say, it’s here to stay. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, predicts that it will become a “seasonal virus,” joining influenza and other respiratory viruses that tend to spread during the winter months. Some estimates say that it could take up to 10 years to become endemic.
Disposable gloves will continue to play a central role in global health, hygiene, and safety. But that doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk for distributors. Check with your customers to determine their glove inventory needs, and be prepared to respond. Log into your AMMEX account to place an order today.