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24 December 2021

How the Omicron variant exerts an economic and social toll of its own

Theatres and football clubs are among the organisations that have been hit hard by the new wave of infections.

By Stephen Bush

Happy Christmas, is Covid over? Another study – this one from the Health Security Agency – suggests that Omicron is less likely to result in severe illness and hospitalisations than previous variants of the novel coronavirus. 

But the same caveats remain: our individual risk is lessened, but the systemic risk to healthcare capacity is harder to measure at this stage. As I wrote yesterday, if we want to avoid stay-at-home orders and limits on socialising, we will have to find ways both to increase the UK’s healthcare capacity and utilise it in a more efficient way. 

Away from healthcare policy directly, Omicron continues to exert an economic and social toll of its own. The Premier League continues to struggle to fulfil fixtures, while a number of theatres have had to cancel lucrative pantomime performances due to illness among cast members. 

There are three parts to the fight against Covid-19, as I write in my column today: direct measures to fight the novel coronavirus, such as vaccines and new treatments, measures to increase healthcare capacity in the round, such as free inoculations against other diseases (for example the flu and chickenpox) and societal-wide measures, such as improved ventilation and statutory sick pay. 

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