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Omicron Fallout

   News / 29 Nov 2021

Published: 29 November 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

  • Global stock markets nosedived on Friday. More than £65bn was wiped off the FTSE 100 alone as investors reacted in fear to the newly discovered covid variant, named Omicron by the World Health Organization. The UK’s leading index closed 3.6% lower, suffering its worst day this year. Only a small handful of stocks were in the green. Travel, leisure and hospitality stocks were some of the biggest fallers, as were oil producers. British Airways owner IAG plummeted up to 20% to reach its lowest level since November 2020. Easyjet lost a tenth of its value, as did jet engineer Rolls Royce.  

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that face masks must be worn in shops and on public transport from Tuesday this week. All contacts of anyone with the Omicron variant must also self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

  • All travellers arriving in the UK must now take a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival and isolate for 10 days if positive, regardless of whether they are vaccinated against Covid-19. An ABTA spokesman said: "While ABTA understands that this is a rapidly evolving situation and public health must come first, the decision to require all arrivals to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result is returned is a huge blow for travel businesses, many of whom were only just starting to get back on their feet after 20 months of severe restrictions.

  • Portugal has decreed that all Britons, regardless of their vaccination status, will need a negative Covid-19 test to enter the country from December 1, and show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, tourist attractions and hotels from the same date.

  • Spain has announced that unvaccinated British tourists will be banned from entering the country from Wednesday, ending an exemption which means travellers without Covid jabs could enter Spain with a negative test or proof of recovery from the virus.

  • British Airways, meanwhile, has suspended flights to Hong Kong: The South China Morning Post reported that one BA worker had tested positive for Covid, leading to most crew members being sent to Hong Kong's Penny's Bay quarantine camp.

The Minister for International Trade, Ranil Jayawardena, praised the work of the Government in an op-ed published by The Telegraph on Friday, saying Brexit has facilitated the export of British made goods and services to various countries via "cutting through unnecessary red tape and working with our trading partners across the world to set the conditions in which British businesses can thrive." The Minister wrote: "I’m proud to say that figures published yesterday show we successfully resolved a total of 217 trade barriers across 74 countries – up 20 percent on last year’s total.” "So much for the doubters, doomsters and gloomsters," he added. He claimed the total worth of £766 billion in trade deals include those signed with 70 countries and the European Union. His article also highlighted the fact that British companies are exporting more goods to non-EU countries (£13.6 billion excluding precious metals) than EU countries (£12.9 billion).
There is limited evidence that Chancellor Rishi Sunak's £2bn jobs programme for young people is working, according to a new report from The National Audit Office (NAO). The watchdog warned the government has “limited assurance” over whether the Kickstart scheme, aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, is having any positive effect or creating high quality jobs. The government says that some 100,000 jobs have been created through the scheme, but it is unclear if these roles would have been created anyway, said the NAO. Kickstart was designed to create six-month work placements for young people claiming benefits following a sharp rise in unemployment following covid restrictions last year. But the NAO has also cautioned that more could be done to ensure that the jobs created are "targeted at those who need them the most".
Huw Pill, the new chief economist of the Bank of England (BoE), told the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Newcastle on Friday that “the ground is prepared” for an interest rate hike.
BT's plan to phase out traditional handsets with digital ones is under fire, the Express reports. Traditional landline telephones are being ditched in favour of digital handsets requiring electricity and internet provision as part of BT’s digital changeover, scheduled for 2025, but Darren Jones MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Internet, Communications and Technology, told the newspaper: “Moving the UK to a digital phone network has obvious advantages, but it also risks cutting off the people that rely on their existing traditional landlines the most. Moving to digital will have to go in hand with guaranteeing the ability to make emergency calls if there's a power cut, making sure first-time internet users understand this new system and connecting the 1.5 million homes in the UK still without broadband. I would like to see a plan for the transition and work with BT to ensure everyone benefits from new technologies.”  Telecoms watchdog Ofcom guidelines require BT to ensure customers can contact emergency services in a power cut lasting over an hour but it is unclear how that will be achieved in the case of anyone who loses access from an internet phone, or who lacks a mobile phone or signal. BT's switchover, Digital Voice, got underway in 2019, with two million landlines converted so far. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman said: “The phone industry has decided on a phased upgrade of its old copper-based network due to its increasing unreliability. “Telecoms firms have a regulatory obligation to provide customers with access to the emergency services in the event of a power cut.”
Clem Cowton, the director of external affairs at Octopus Energy has said gas prices will continue rise and will “bite a lot harder next spring,” making life “very hard for households." She has called on the Government to be prepared to spread out the shared cost of supplier failures and help households out with the short-term impacts of higher bills in the coming year. She advised customers on fixed tariffs ending now to let themselves be automatically moved to cheaper standard variable tariffs, and then try and fix in April next year when the energy price cap is likely to rise considerably. Nearly half of all UK energy firms have gone bust in the past few months.
BSA Company Ltd. has announced the return of the iconic British motorcycle brand BSA Motorcycles. A new model will launch at Motorcycle Live at Birmingham’s NEC exhibition centre on 4 December 2021. Standing for Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd, BSA was founded in 1861 to produce firearms. The motorcycle division was set up in 1903 and the brand went on to become the largest supplier of motorcycles to the Allied Forces during the Second World War. Operations ceased in the 1970s, but the brand was acquired by the Mahindra Group in 2016. Earlier this year, BSA was awarded a £4.6 million grant by the Government for the development of zero-emission motorcycles, as part of the low-carbon automotive initiative. The new motorcycles will be built in the UK at a factory in the Midlands.
Williams Racing made the following announcement on Twitter this morning: “It is with great sadness that on behalf of the Williams family, the team can confirm the death of Sir Frank Williams CBE, Founder and Former Team Principal of Williams Racing, at the age of 79.”
Blackstone, the owner of Bourne Leisure, Butlin's parent company, has asked bankers at Rothschild to launch an auction of Britain's best-known chain of holiday camps next year, Sky News reports.
UK car production slumped to its lowest ever October level since 1956 amid a global shortage of semiconductors. Car production was down 41.4% last month, with factories turning out 64,729 units, latest figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed. It was the fourth straight month of decline.
Drug policy think tank Volteface has called on Boris Johnson to make the most of the new market of medical cannabis and CBD products opened up by Brexit. Volteface told Express.co.uk: “The UK CBD market - the biggest in Europe - and medical cannabis markets were previously hamstrung by bureaucratic decision-making made by the EU. Now…the UK can lead on these burgeoning growth markets, but only if it acts fast.” The think tank suggests the market could rack up to £1.2 billion and create some 41,000 thousand direct jobs, and a further 17,000 supporting roles.
Almost half (49%) of small businesses have reported issues with their staff’s health and wellbeing during the past year, according to a survey conducted amongst SMEs by Lloyds Bank Business. The pressure of responsibilities was cited as the main reason for becoming unwell (58%), with a similar proportion feeling overworked (57%). More than half (55%) reported poor work-life balance as a cause. Businesses in London were particularly at risk of such difficulties (60%) with the health and wellbeing of staff, while those in the north of England have been least impacted (44%).
The cryptocurrency-trading hamster Mr Goxx has died, the BBC reports. The rodent, who shot to internet fame for his ability to often outperform human investors using a specially built trading cage, was made famous by two friends in Germany who wanted to prove the randomness of success in the digital currency industry. He would famously make decisions by running on his "intention wheel" to select which cryptocurrency he'd like to trade and subsequently entering either a buy or sell tunnel on his 'office floor'. Every time he ran through a tunnel, the electronics wired to his office completed the trade according to Mr Goxx's desires. The tiny trader began his financial career on 12 June 2021. After his final day of trading on 22 November, his portfolio was up 19.7% and he had made about 98 Euros profit.

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