"Footfall has halved": City restaurants already feeling pain of Omicron

track and trace system pingdemic/samia king of moorish falafel bar in norwich

The new Covid variant has reignited 'pingdemic' fears. Insert: Samia King of Moorish Falafel Bar in Norwich - Credit: PA/Archant

Bosses are terrified a new 'pingdemic' coupled with the latest Covid variant could run riot on their festive season. 

Already bars and restaurants across the city are seeing a spike in cancellations as folk chose to avoid public spaces.

And now one Covid boffin is even suggesting bosses should cancel the office Christmas knees-up!  

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar, said that she has noticed a change: "It's already affected both of my stores. Just this morning I had to go through my December rotas and reduce staff hours quite dramatically.

"Footfall has halved overnight. There's always a lull in November but we can normally count on a huge surge in December.

"Everything in the news seems to be putting people off coming into town. I'm pre-empting a much slower month.

"It's very concerning and I feel bad for cutting my staff's hours but I'm doing it to make sure we can stay open. I don't know if we can survive another lockdown without government help.

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"I haven't even paid my own wages for the last few months - I'd rather make sure my staff isn't struggling.

"Everyone in the industry is suffering. Loads of the restaurant owners I know around here have noticed a drop in footfall.

"People realise that they need to support local businesses and to spend their money with us rather than with huge corporations." 

Kane Freeman and Laz Damon are the new owners of The Wallow in Exchange Street Credit: Louisa Baldwi

Kane Freeman and Laz Damon, owners of The Wallow in Exchange Street - Credit: Archant

Kane Freeman, co-owner of The Wallow in Exchange Street, said: "We've already noticed cancellations coming through. Whether that's due to the new variant, people being pinged or people being cautious I don't know.

"People have to do what they need to do to feel safe. It's uncertain times to be in again especially near Christmas." 

But Mr Freeman said he understood the importance of the Covid app: "Pinging is obviously frustrating especially when people don't necessarily need to be pinged but if it's going to keep us all safe then it's what we have to do.

"It's just one of those things - everyone's got to pull together to get through."

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

And in more depressing news a uni virus expert now thinks we might have to ditch the Christmas party.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, said bosses should consider cancelling. 

"It's notable that England is not advising against Christmas parties and, personally, I think that is a mistake," he said.

"You might say 'if you're going to ban Christmas parties, why not close nightclubs?' But I think there's a difference when it comes to work Christmas parties.

"Nightclubs tend to be full of 20-somethings, who are generally at low risk. But the thing about an office Christmas party is you can get a lot of 20-somethings, who might have been going out a lot, mixing with more vulnerable, older people, who have not."

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. Pic: Archant

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. - Credit: Archant

Commenting on the previous 'pingdemic' Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It was less of a problem if you’re a business that can work from home. You can receive a ping and sit at home and carry on regardless.

“If you are a business that requires people to turn up then it’s clearly a problem if people are not available.

“And that is the basic problem. I think it exposes the interdependency of the economy, where things are linked.”

Asked whether another ‘pingdemic’ might be avoided because many people have stopped using the app or deleted it, Mr Starkie added: “It depends on the Track and Trace. Because Track and Trace is not the app, they’re two different things.”

Join our Norfolk Coronavirus Updates Facebook group for more news about how the pandemic is affecting the county. 

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