The global spread of the Omicron variant continues to grow as the surge in the cases is causing a stir in the UK. With more than 200 thousand confirmed cases approximately, the Omicron variant surpasses the spread of the Delta variant and enjoys the status of being a dominant virus strain in the UK in the past month. As per the leading experts, the Omicron variant is found to have a high infectious effect. While health officials warn against the variant as mild, a few of the initial studies have shown that the Omicron variant is remarkably less worrisome with common symptoms such as mild fever, severe body pain, sore throat, vomiting and loss of appetite. Since a considerable fraction of the UK’s population is affected by the Omicron variant, life in the Kingdom is in full swing with relevant precautionary measures tagged along.
In the hazardous times of the pandemic, the healthcare system captures the primary importance. With the rapid growth in the Omicron variant across the United Kingdom, the efficient healthcare system stands firm and highly equipped in the face of calamity. However, as the Omicron variant sweeps rapidly across the country with a high positivity rate, a few of the healthcare experts in the Greater Manchester region have postponed some non-urgent surgeries due to the pressure and absence of the workers. In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Gillian Keegan, a junior minister in the UK ministry of health, acknowledged the virus strain as an extreme pressure with a surging positivity rate and increase in hospitalisations. As an effect of this increase in pressure, hospitals are reaching out to the workers who are on leave or retired recently to come back to work in order to fend off the potential threat that can be posed by the exponential growth in the Omicron variant cases across the UK.
While the healthcare system is fully equipped, the educational front in the UK is concerning. As per the current data, the infection rate is the highest among the young adults, and the positivity rate is also found to be high among children. With the beginning of the term delayed by a few days, the staff absence due to being affected by the Omicron variant remains the prevailing issue across the UK. As a result, education secretary Nadhim Zahavi has instructed the headteachers to ensure face-to-face learning by shifting a few lessons online in order to curb the potential impact caused by the staff absences. Ex-teachers are also being encouraged to join the schools to resolve the staffing problem and ensure the timely start of the term. In order to carry out safe on-campus classes, wearing masks in the classrooms has been made mandatory across the UK. Hygiene and sanitisation have been prioritised in schools, and air filtration units have been introduced in the classrooms to prevent the widespread.
As the healthcare sector and educational institutes observe the absence of staff, other sectors are also met by the same problem in the United Kingdom. The New Year started off with around 3 million people on sick leave, which is relatively higher than the previous year. This massive fraction of the working population being absent from the workplace is an alarming indication of the impact the Omicron variant is going to have on the economy of the UK. As per Goodshape, which keeps records of the work-related illness and well being of UK employers, the absences of the workforce in the Holiday season and beginning of the new year has caused the UK around 1.3 billion pounds. A large number of government employees were also absent, causing discrepancies in the key services on the work front. Putting the precautionary measures in action, the British government instructed to have their contingency strategy tested, preparing for the worst-case scenario of 25% workforce absence in order to minimise the disturbance that can be caused by the widespread of the Omicron variant.
The businesses have also suffered due to the rapid growth in cases of Omicron variant across the UK. In the Holiday season, when consumers are expected to spend more in shops, restaurants and pubs that cause a hike in sales, the official figures show otherwise. The spending has dropped down drastically when it is usually higher in normal circumstances during the Christmas season and into the New Year. While these months are considered to be the robust months of growth, this decline in sales is penned down as a decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in December and January. In these precarious economic times around the globe, Boris Johnson’s call to curb the Omicron variant infection with minimum restrictions in the UK is termed as a wise decision by economic experts. While the Omicron variant is found to be less deadly than expected in a properly vaccinated population, the economic experts suggest that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would soon be able to reach close to the level it would have, had the new variant not caused any disruption in the first place.
The new variant is taking a toll on the mental health of the mass population in the UK. With the virus cases peaking on a daily basis, the citizens are left with feelings of powerlessness over the variant. According to the psychiatrist Dr Natasha Bijlani, the feelings of powerlessness are giving rise to fear and anxiety, which consequently turns out to be quite negative for the physical as well as the emotional well-being of the people. The unexpected emergence of the Omicron variant made people spend the festive season within the confines of their houses, leaving the people uncertain and pessimistic about the future once again.
However, the Omicron variant has been regarded as less threatening than the COVID’19 and its other variants, which is definitely a light at the end of a deadly tunnel in these difficult times. With the booster jabs and relevant preventions in place, the resilient population of the UK will get back to its feet in no time.