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June 26, 2022


Investment information for the new generation

Loop Insights (MRTX.V) and Empower Clinics’ (CBDT.C) want to burst the travel-ban bubble

Unpopular opinion time.  Aside from the inconvenience of actually getting sick, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been vastly worse than the disease itself. Economic calamity, violence, and depending on what political bubble you’re living in, you may either be dealing with rampant debt or people tossed out into the streets at the tail end of rent moratoriums.

If you ask me debt is preferable. We can pay it back. Homelessness and death from exposure? Not so much. The fact that weighing the effects of multi-generational debt against the potential loss of human life is considered an unpopular opinion in some circles is indicative of a moral rot at the core of our political discourse, but here we are, and that’s a subject for another time.

Besides, most of us in Canada live in decently a cozy bubble, sequestered away from the problems faced by the rest of the world. don’t we? We’re not quite like the United States. Most of us have roofs over our heads and food in our bellies and our economy, while not exactly the nuclear-powered engine we want, is still managing to keep enough money flowing that we’re not considering civil war. So far.

The worst many of us are facing right now is that Las Vegas is closed and maybe we’ll have to deal with our mother-in-law for a 14-day quarantine period after she gets off the plane from Romania next month. Or wherever your in-laws are from.

All jabs and kidding aside, the COVID-19 pandemic, with its quarantine periods and any lack of realistic containment solutions outside of stand six feet apart, wear a mask and pray to whatever God will hear you, really needs an alternative solution to avoid any further damage to life, political relationships and the economy. So far attempts to mitigate the global spread of the virus by plane or cruise ship has made countries go to great lengths to protect their citizens at the expense of the global travel industry.

For example, unless a solution to replace the travel measures is found and implemented, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that COVID-19 could end up costing the world tourism sector USD$3.3 trillion before it’s over. Or how about this? In Canada alone, the Canadian tourism industry contributed $40 billion to the economy in 2019, according to Statista. They’re not even going to come close to that mark this year.

Air Canada also wants to drop the 14-day mandatory quarantine in favour of a test-based approach. That way passengers deplaning from their airborne disease incubators can know within fifteen minutes if they’ve got COVID-19 and can get on with their lives rather than spend two weeks in isolation not getting paid.

It’s too bad that Loop Insights (MRTX.V) and Empower Clinics’ (CBDT.C) hadn’t come up with their COVID-19 mitigation solution a few months ago. We could have maybe skipped the whole travel ban issue. Their travel bubble solution solves the present quarantine requirements shutting down international travel by offering venue tracing, automated guest exposure notifications in real time and frequent testing with rapid 15 minute results.

“We have heard from stakeholders in the entertainment, travel and hospitality industries that have stressed the importance of an end-to-end integrated solution capable of protecting employees and customers to facilitate a safe economic recovery. In partnership with Empower’s rapid testing technology, Loop has established a comprehensive solution capable of establishing a travel bubble and reopening a significant portion of the global economy,” said Rob Anson, chief executive officer for Loop Insights.

Maybe we’re approaching this all wrong.

Maybe instead of mourning what we’ve lost, we should be looking forward to what we can salvage or can still enjoy. Empower and Loop are two companies doing what they can to fulfill the promise of the latter.

Normally, when we’ve written about Empower Clinics, it’s in context of their cannabis business like their recent deal with Heritage Cannabis but they’ve done the smart thing and recognized the potential in doing what they can to fight COVID-19, like they’re recent deal with Heritage Cannabis. From a business perspective, this bit of diversification is a plus.

Loop Insights, on the other hand, is a tech company dealing specifically in artificial intelligence, and their venue tracing platform could be what’s needed to reopen the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries in the United States. Combined with Empower’s antigen and antibody tests, which work in 15 minutes, they could provide airlines, cruise ships and the 182 countries presently enduring varying degrees of lockdown with the safety and security required to reopen their borders and let their citizens travel abroad.

Specifically, as of today, travel restrictions by country are as follows:

  • Fifty-eight countries are completely closed.
  • One hundred twenty-four countries are partially open with mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

Empower also owns KAI Medical Laboratory, a laboratory accredited by the Cruise Lines International Association- and Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation, tasked to provide reliable and accurate tests to enterprise level clients, hospitals and medical clinics, pharmacies and employer groups. KAI has taken the lead in COVID-19 testing, using their reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, as well as serology testing. The company intends that their RT-PCR testing will have an important role to play in resolving the travel bubble issue.

“As we expand our efforts on the get-back-to-work testing initiative, it has become apparent that businesses of all types, large or small, private or public sector require not only fast and accurate COVID-19 testing, but also a comprehensive solution for contact tracing. Establishing a partnership with Loop, working with the RT-PCR and rapid testing capabilities of Kai Medical, allows our companies together to establish a safe and viable economic recovery solution,” according to Steven McAuley, chairman and CEO for Empower.

Maybe by the time the second wave is over we’ll be better prepared.

—Joseph Morton

Full disclosure: Heritage Cannabis is an marketing client.

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