UK high streets eerily quieter than normal as Brits try to save Christmas from Omicron

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On what is usually one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year, footfall appears to have slumped as people desperately try to avoid having to isolate with Covid over the festive period

Birmingham's Bullring Shoping Centre was virtually empty today
Birmingham’s Bullring Shoping Centre was virtually empty today

High streets across the UK have been left eerily quiet just one week before Christmas as Brits try to save the big day from Omicron.

On what is usually one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year, footfall appears to have slumped as people desperately try to avoid having to isolate with Covid over the festive period.

It comes as the UK’s total number of daily Covid cases sky-rocketed to 93,045 yesterday – up 60% on last week – with London proving to be the hotspot for the Covid variant.

Around a quarter of cases recorded in the past 24 hours were in London, with the infection rate having risen fivefold since Omicron was first identified.

People visit Exeter city centre in Devon
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Image:

SWNS)

It comes as visits to central London were down by 20% on Thursday – with some shops bringing forward their Christmas sales in a bid to entice shoppers.

Harrods announced it had brought forward its Boxing Day sale “in response to ongoing trading realities”, while Halfords followed suit.

According to Springboard figures, visits to high streets around the UK on Thursday morning were down 2.7% on the previous week’s figure, while visits to shopping centres had fallen by 2.6%.

A quiet Oxford Street in central London amid reports of shoppers staying at home in the build up to Christmas
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Image:

PA)

Retail parks had, in contrast, recorded a 3.8% lift, reports the Guardian.

It comes as the UK’s total number of daily Covid cases sky-rocketed yesterday to 93,045 – up 60% on last week – with London proving to be the hotspot for the Covid variant.

Around a quarter of cases recorded in the past 24 hours were in London, with the infection rate having risen fivefold since Omicron was first identified, reports the Daily Mail.

Shoppers walk past John Lewis on Oxford Street in London on the last Saturday before Christmas
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Image:

PA)

The new strain is expected to quickly become the dominant coronavirus strain in Britain, with just 3,201 new cases of Omicron officially registered today – but that figure is thought to be vastly underestimated due to the time it takes to analyse positive samples.

The total number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK currently stands at 14,909, but experts believe up to 400,000 people could be catching it every day.

People out shopping on Oxford Street in London
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Image:

PA)

Professor Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London predict there could be around 3,000 daily Omicron deaths a day in January without further restrictions.

The alarming figures, much higher than the previous record of around 1,800 deaths in one day during the second wave of the pandemic, have prompted calls for more curbs in the New Year.

Footfall has fallen in high streets across the UK
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Image:

SWNS)

The research also found no evidence that the variant was less severe than Delta – which has been the dominant strain in the UK up until now – and estimated it is five-and-a-half times more likely to re-infect people, concluding that Omicron “poses a major, imminent threat to public health”.

It comes as it was revealed that the UK’s eight worst Covid hotspots are now in London as Omicron rips through the capital.

Christmas shoppers in a Manchester busy but not crowded
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Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

Concerning data released today reveals an explosion of cases in London, where the variant has become the dominant strain.

Lambeth has the highest rate in the UK after the number of people testing positive grew by 131% in seven days.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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