Omicron urges UK to stay at home even without government lockdown

LONDON — First, his employees started testing positive. Then a wave of cancellations when new The Omicron variant tore through the British capital. By the next week, Alex Thorp decided to cut his losses and shut down 161 Kirkdale pub by early Christmas, moving the business back into closed mode.

“At this point, this is basically a lockdown anyway,” said Thorp, who has completed home delivery and takeout meals – a blueprint he developed over the course of his career. previous restrictions.

Once again, streets were empty and restaurants closed in the UK as the Omicron variant broke new records. However, unlike previous locks, there are no government duty to stay at home this time; everyone is breaking down in their own way, scared of catching Covid-19 and forced to spend Christmas in isolation.

The cautious behavior is a blow to retailers and restaurants that have begun to recover from previous rounds of restrictions and are counting on strong festive trading to see them in. in the coming months. It also highlights how voluntary responses to the virus can shape the trajectory of the pandemic and the approach of governments as they grapple with a new variant.

The UK did not impose a stay-at-home government mandate in response to Omicron; Paddington Station in London on Tuesday.

Dr Simon Williams, senior lecturer in people and organizations at Swansea University, who has conducted research on public attitudes towards Covid-19, said: “As well as uncertainty over immunity epidemiology and virology, as well as psychological uncertainty.

So far, the UK government has avoided imposing the kinds of stringent measures that scientists deem necessary to limit Omicrons and prevent hospitals from being overloaded, advises people to work from home and exercise at their own pace.

One in six Britons have canceled Christmas parties in response to the new variation, according to a recent YouGov poll, and nearly as many have refused to see friends or family.

According to researcher Springboard, some department stores have boosted sales in an attempt to boost foot traffic, which has fallen 2.6 per cent across the UK’s main shopping streets on weekdays. during the busiest weekend of the year. The impact was heavier in urban centres – down 8.5% in London and 6.4% in cities outside the capital last weekend, compared with the previous week.


Some department stores have brought in higher sales in an attempt to boost traffic; a London street on Tuesday.

According to data from the reservation service OpenTable, the number of diners seated at restaurants across the UK was 9% lower last week compared with the same period in 2019. In the week before news of the Omicron variant, it is already 15% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Jamie Younger, who has since closed his restaurant, Begging Bowl, in south London, said: “It’s not financially viable. “We’ll end up losing more money if we try to stay open.”

As companies halted life support as they sought to normalize the economy, the UK government came under renewed pressure to deliver emergency economic policies that have helped businesses weather the pandemic. previously translated. These include an employment support scheme where the government will pay the salaries of 11.7 million employees over an 18-month period, at a cost of £70 billion, or $93.9 billion, to the Treasury.


Pedestrian traffic fell 2.6% on the UK’s main shopping streets, including 8.5% in London, on what is normally one of the busiest weekends of the year; Oxford Street in London on Monday.

The Treasury on Wednesday announced it would offer a one-time grant of up to £6,000, or about $8,000, to businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which find they face disruptions. uncertain. It also agreed to pay sick leave for Covid-19-related absences for small and medium-sized employers around the country.

Businesses said more support would be needed if the government introduced further restrictions. They blamed the government for scaring away their clients after the UK’s chief medical officer advised people to prioritize the social relationships that matter most to them.

While voluntary changes in behavior can help reduce transmission, Mr Williams says they can’t achieve as much as top-down restrictions. “You won’t and can’t get the same degree of mobility and mix loss from the guide as you can from the measures,” he said. “Measures are only as good as your compliance with them.”

Some studies indicate that Omicron is more resistant to current vaccines than earlier Covid variants, although boosters appear to help. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez gets an exclusive look inside the lab testing how antibodies interact with Omicron. Artwork: Tom Grillo

Prime Minister

Boris Johnson, to face someone oppose stricter restrictions from within his party, has ruled out imposing them before Christmas, while also signaling it may be needed after December 25.

A recent YouGov poll found that even if mixing with other households were banned around Christmas, nearly half of respondents would not comply. The main reason they cited was the government’s failure to abide by its own rules, reflecting a lack of trust after a leak emerged that showed politicians attending Christmas parties during the lockdown at the time. this point last year. Others said they had planned to see family or were bored with the rules.


Does the Omicron variant cause you to change your behavior? Join the conversation below.

Once the Christmas danger has passed, there are questions about the extent to which people will comply with the restrictions at a time when they are becoming increasingly familiar with the virus, in part due to high vaccination levels.

The lightning propagation of the new variant is cause for concern for Dan Durham. But 31 years old worry less about illness, or the severity of the virus, compared with the prospect that his 11-year-old’s Christmas lunch with his partner in south London would be ruined.

After 12 people he knew – including his sister and a friend he was with during the day – tested positive, Mr. Durham decided there was no chance; he canceled all his plans and has barely ventured out of the house since.

Mr Durham, who works in market research, said: “I took the dog for a walk and that was it. “We impose our private key because we want Christmas Day to continue.”


The Treasury Department said it would cover sick leave for Covid-19-related absences for small and medium-sized employers; a street in central London on Monday.

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