Professional Comment

What Does The Future Hold With The Omicron Variant?

By Zoe Adjey, Lecturer in Hospitality and Human Resource Management at the University of East London

It would be fair to say that our beloved hospitality industry has taken a hammering in the last 20 months. Most businesses have been closed or offered limited services.The long-term effect on the supply chain, staff, landlords still has not been truly felt.

Just as we thought, and felt, it was safer and had begun to look forward to a happy, healthy and busy festive season, out of the shadows loomed a new variant, Omicron.

First recorded in South Africa, the omicron variant is a mutation of COVID-19 that was reported to The WHO on the 24th of November 2021. By the 27th of November the UK government had started introducing restrictions on both travel and how the population mixed. Up until the 6th of December 2021 it has now been reported in 38 countries.The full effects of omicron are still not known, and we expect within the next week, that the scientific community can provide us clearer answers.

What do we think the near future holds with the new omicron variant? Hospitality, was not one of the settings in which masks became compulsory on the 30th of November. Giving us a glimmer of Christmas spirit, the industry might be spared some of the unusual and devastating restrictions that were faced this time last year.

However, the messaging surrounding Christmas parties has been incredibly mixed and very unclear. Many firms who would have booked large corporate events for their employees have restricted these events to smaller departmental or single site gatherings.Anecdotal evidence from industry professionals is that there has been a cancellation of events of over 100 people.

Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland have launched their version of a COVID passport. Each nation has a slightly different variation; however all determine vaccination status and some, proof of negative COVID test. Covid passports must be shown to enter nightclubs, live entertainment and any event of over 500 people. England has not introduced Covid passports, and some might say this makes the population vulnerable to both infection and reinfection but will not support the hospitality industry to continue to trade.

Hospitality industry has, some might say, a very ambivalent reaction to covid passports, It was thought that asking industry professionals to manage and police covid passports into premises was going to strain further an already overstretched workforce. However, it seems that they are as simple as using the covid QR codes to register when you are entering an establishment.This would give a level of reassurance to all patrons and hospitality operators reassurance that they are doing everything to limit the spread of covid within their premises or events and most importantly allow them to open.