COVID-19: Omicron takes out 3% of the workforce while a fifth of firms are hit by higher cancellations

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.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

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.

Source: Read Full Article