It is unclear if Andrew Bailey and his team at the Bank of England have a full grasp of the Greek alphabet, but we in the NTI newsroom are pretty sure they know that Omicron is 'Oh ... bugger'.
Having got all of us in the UK revved up for one, maybe two, interest rate rises to dampen our enthusiasm for 5 per cent inflation, the latest iteration of the globe's favourite bug has got the Bank's team scurrying back to their policy room. As sterling fell 0.5 per cent to $1.3162 yesterday (Wednesday 9 December), its lowest since 2020, the Bank's policy team shrunk back into the shadows, presumably hoping that all of this talk about 'Plan B' will do its stuff with inflation ... which doesn't seem very mathematical or strategic.
Billy called Downing Street for comment, but all he could hear was shrieking in the background, presumably the keening of people ashamed ... of being found out. More successful was the attempt to get a quote from Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the Bank. He said: “Fresh restrictions are a big setback for businesses, particularly for those in hospitality and retail who are in a critical trading period, as well as transport."
"Anything about interest rates, Matthew?"
Business groups wasted no time in shouting things such as "body blow" and "shame" as a not terribly sheepish Boris announced the latest Coronavirus restrictions flanked by his glowering parents, Chris and Patrick, who really wanted to talk more about the virus than what had gone viral in the preceding 24 hours. Bar and restaurant owners describe the weeks in the run-up to Christmas as the “golden quarter” when the industry makes most of its profits from spending on parties and drinks in the festive period. Nothing has changed and they can still sell turkey paupiette and figgy pudding, but it seems that potential merry makers are being put off by Omicron and can't work out whether to blame anti-vaxxers or the South Africans.
The owners of nightclubs and bars are particularly cross and this seems to have affected their power of logic. They are fixating on the Government and its restrictions, rather than those who want to enter their establishments having chosen not to be vaccinated and spread Covid as well as Christmas cheer. With more than 82 per cent of Britain's population at least double-jabbed this surely offers them a large enough demographic to whom they can sell prosecco at £8.95 a pop? Why do they want 'those others'? Do they also want to welcome those with knives into their clubs and inns?
We absolutely have to squeeze in a quote from the gloriously named Michael Kill who is chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, which represents the night-time sector. He said that: ... “nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the prime minister for him to save his own skin”. Do you think he answers his phone: "Kill Night Time Industries"? There was definitely a slip up at his interview.
Mr Kill went on to say: "You do have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement." Okay, so we can help him with this:
Timing: the Omicron variant is doubling its infection rate every two days.
Rationale: the Omicron variant is doubling its infection rate every two days.
Does that help, Michael?
More unlucky are the sandwich shops and cafes in city centres who have stocked up on festively-stuffed baguettes and cinnamon-flavoured hot beverages. They won't be selling many of those come Monday ... unless they deliver.