ASX 200 healthcare shares jump amid Omicron fears

COVID variants like Omicron and Delta threaten to disrupt the pace of the global economic recovery.

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S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) healthcare shares are widely gaining today.

Together, the 12 ASX 200-listed healthcare shares are up an average of 0.6%, with 7 in the green and 5 in the red.

This comes as the broader index is under pressure amid fears the new Omicron COVID-19 variant could derail the global economic recovery and Australia's own nascent reopening plans. At time of writing the ASX 200 is down 0.4%, having recovered from earlier losses of 1.2%.

Today's top 3 ASX 200 healthcare share performers

Leading the ASX 200 healthcare shares higher is Ansell Limited (ASX: ANN).

At time of writing, the Ansell share price is up 3.7% to $33.07 per share. Ansell provides health and safety protection solutions. And with the rise of the new Omicron variant, it may be the company's strong focus on gloves that's seeing investors hit the buy button.

Coming in at number 2 today, is Healius Ltd (ASX: HLS). The Healius share price is up 2.7% to $4.88 per share. Healius has a large network of pathology laboratories, collection centres, medical centres, day hospitals and imaging sites throughout Australia.

Also well into the green today, and coming in as the third best ASX 200 healthcare share performer, is Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX: SHL). The Sonic share price is up 2.48% to $42.63 per share. Sonic is a global pathology provider with a significant footprint in diagnostic imaging within Australia.

With investors jittery about emerging COVID variants, all 3 shares are handily outperforming the index today.

What's the deal with Omicron?

The new COVID variant officially received its Greek designation over the weekend. Last week, it still held the more obscure label of B.1.1.529. But the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision to label the variant gives some credence to its potential to throw a spanner into the world's grand reopening and economic recovery plans.

The virus appears to have mutated in South Africa and has already spread into parts of Europe, Asia, and the United States. Two cases have been reported in Australia. The travellers, returning from Africa, tested positive and have been quarantined.

There's no evidence yet that Omicron is more deadly than Delta, but early research indicates it may be more transmissible.

Australia has joined a growing list of nations to temporarily ban travel from South Africa and neighbouring nations.

While this has seen ASX 200 travel shares hammered over the past 2 trading days, many ASX 200 healthcare shares, like the 3 listed above, have seen increased investor interest.

How have these 3 ASX 200 healthcare shares been performing this year?

The Sonic Healthcare share price has gained more than 29% in 2021.

Healius shares just edge out these gains, up 30% year-to-date.

Ansell has been trending lower since July. Despite today's bounce, shares in the ASX 200 healthcare company are down 5% this calendar year.

The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Ansell Ltd. and Sonic Healthcare Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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