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COVID-19: Omicron takes out 3% of the workforce while a fifth of firms are hit by higher cancellations
January 13, 2022
An estimated 3% of the UK workforce was off work in late December while a fifth of businesses reported increased cancellations over the past month amid the surge in the Omicron variant, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The number-crunchers reported that 21% of firms had seen a rise in cancellations, with nearly half (44%) of businesses in the accommodation and food services sector being hit.
The run-up to Christmas was dominated by jitters over the impact of the latest COVID variant – with England ultimately alone in holding back from imposing tougher measures on pubs and restaurants despite surging case numbers.
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The ONS said dinner reservations last week, according to OpenTable stats, slumped to 88% of their level for the equivalent week in 2020 – before the start of the pandemic – as coronavirus cases peaked at more than 200,000 a day.
The grim picture for hospitality was further illustrated by a trading update from Mitchells & Butlers, the group behind pub and bar chains such as All Bar One and Harvester.
It said “calls for further caution in socialising” after the emergence of Omicron had prompted a downturn over the key festive period, with a 10.2% fall in like-for-like sales over the four weeks to 8 January.
Meanwhile, the ONS said that 3% of the workforce was estimated to be on sick leave or not working because of coronavirus symptoms, self-isolation or quarantine demands.
The statistics agency was unable to put a figure on the total number of people affected but said it was the highest sum since comparable estimates began in June 2020.