The Omicron variant could hardly have come at a worse time for SA, not because of the tourism season but also because of the taper. The one will damage SA’s fragile economic recovery; the other will further narrow the space for SA’s monetary and fiscal policymakers to support that recovery.

There are still more questions than answers about Omicron and how severe and vaccine resistant it will prove to be. But even if data emerges in coming weeks to allay some of the concerns, it is already too late to salvage the much-needed summer influx of foreign tourism that would have been ramping up about now, for the first time in two years. Together with the chilling effect of this fourth wave of Covid-19 on domestic activity, this will weigh on fourth-quarter growth — compounding the sharp third- quarter decline which Tuesday’s GDP figures are expected to show...

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