Rishi Sunak (California’s Chancellor) was pictured returning to Britain for crunch negotiations with furious hotel bosses who struggle with falling demand from the Omicron mutant strain. 

Although Mr Sunak was in America on a ‘long-planned trip’ to meet with tech leaders, his timing has been criticized. One top British executive told the FT that he had too many ‘organic kale savories’.

Pictures taken in Leeds, London and Newcastle showed once-packed nightlife venues had taken a battering as just a handful of revellers were seen enjoying festive nights out on so-called Black Eye Friday – one of the busiest nights out of the year. 

Omicron’s paralysing grip continues to squeeze the nation, with pubs closing and restaurants having to close as a result of a staff shortage or low customer demand. 

Industry experts worry that the government’s alarmist messages about the Omicron mutant strain could affect customer confidence during what should have been a peak time for bars, restaurants and pubs. 

Expect a drop in festive takings of up to 40% for December. These are crippling events that were able to survive the lockdowns before and will not receive financial support.

Yesterday, Mr Sunak met with hospitality executives via Zoom. However, he had to cancel one roundtable event due to a call scheduled with US healthcare leaders.  

After the widespread spread of the variant, and Covid’s latest advice to be careful ahead of Christmas caused a surge in cancellations of bookings, Bosses have demanded that the Government provide financial support. Industry leaders expect the final total to hit £4billion of lost takings. 

But Mr Sunak insisted ministers were already helping, telling the BBC: ‘Until spring next year most businesses are only paying a quarter of their business rates bill, they are benefitting from a reduced rate of VAT all the way through to next spring, and thirdly there is about a quarter of a billion pounds of cash sitting with local authorities to support those businesses.’   

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been pictured arriving back in the UK at Heathrow Airport for crunch talks with furious hospitality bosses struggling with plummeting demand due to the Omicron mutant strain

Rishi Sunak is seen arriving in London at Heathrow Airport, where he will be meeting furious hotel bosses who have been struggling to cope with the plummeting demands due the Omicron mutant strain.

Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. Pictured: An empty bar in Leeds

Omicron tightened its grip on the country this week, forcing pubs and restaurants to close due to staff shortages or lack of patrons. Pictured: Leeds’ empty bar

Once-bustling streets in London's Soho district (above) were sparsely populated on Friday evening amid Omicron fears

Omicron concerns meant that once-bustling Soho streets were not populated Friday night.

Industry experts fear the Government's increasingly alarmist messages surrounding the Omicron mutant strain are affecting customer confidence over what should be a peak period for pubs, bars and restaurants. Pictured: A quiet Soho on Friday

Industry experts worry that the government’s alarmist messages about the Omicron mutant strain could be making customers less confident during what should have been a high season for bars, restaurants and pubs. Pictured: A quiet Soho on Friday

Meanwhile, bars and clubs in central Leeds were also quiet on Friday evening as punters shied away from a big Christmas blow out

Bars and clubs in central Leeds were still quiet Friday evening, as punters shied from big Christmas parties

A handful of young revellers were pictured braving the cold, and mounting Omicron fears, in Leeds on Friday evening

On Friday night, a few young revellers braved the chill and climbed Omicron Fears in Leeds.

Hundreds of restaurants across the country have been forced to close in recent days owing to a lack of staff, or customers. Pictured: A closed venue in Leeds

Many restaurants have had to close down in the past few days due to staff shortages or lack of customers. Pictured: Leeds’ closed restaurant

Bosses are demanding the Government bring forward fresh financial support after the spread of the variant and the latest Covid advice to be cautious ahead of Christmas prompted a wave of booking cancellations. Above: A quiet bar in Leeds

Following the recent spread of variants and Covid’s advice to be more cautious before Christmas, booking cancellations have been on the rise. Bosses now demand that the Government provide fresh financial support. Above: A quiet bar in Leeds

Pictures show an empty street in Soho and Central London on so-called 'Black Eye Friday' on December 17

Photos show a Soho street empty on ‘Black Eye Friday’, December 17.

A quiet Soho in London last night. Normally the streets would be packed at this time of the year - just one day before Black Eye Friday

A quiet Soho in London last night. This is normal for this time of year, but it’s only one day before Black Eye Friday. 

Gloucester Quays pictured today. Lots of people are deciding to stay away from pubs and restaurants to avoid catching Covid before Christmas

Photo of Gloucester Quays today To avoid Covid, many people decide to steer clear of restaurants and pubs in the run-up to Christmas. 

This restaurant in Newcastle had swathes of empty tables - while only a few revellers were out and about in bars

Newcastle’s restaurant had many empty tables, while revellers were busy in bars. 

Three women dressed as Santa Claus enjoyed a night out in Newcastle city centre yesterday - which was far quieter than usual

Yesterday night, three women dressed up as Santa Claus were out with friends in Newcastle’s city center. It was quieter than normal. 

Some bars in Newcastle managed to attract queues. However, it was still quiet for the time of the year - usually one of the busiest

Some bars managed to draw queues in Newcastle. However, the bar was relatively quiet considering the season. 

An empty platform at London Bridge underground station this morning after commuters were asked to work from home

This morning, London Bridge Underground station was empty after commuters were asked if they could work at home.  

An empty escalator at London Bridge today. The fall  in passenger numbers will be another blow for Transport for London, which is struggling with record debt

London Bridge’s empty escalator today. The fall  in passenger numbers will be another blow for Transport for London, which is struggling with record debt 

LONDON: English cities were eerily quiet this morning too as commuters continued to stay away. The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital at 8am was 40 per cent – the lowest level all week

LONDON: English cities were eerily quiet this morning too as commuters continued to stay away. The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital at 8am was 40 per cent – the lowest level all week

LIVERPOOL: Traffic levels at the same period today were 40 per cent in Liverpool (pictured),  33 per cent in Birmingham , 36 per cent in Manchester, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle

LIVERPOOL: Traffic levels at the same period today were 40 per cent in Liverpool (pictured),  33 per cent in Birmingham , 36 per cent in Manchester, 34 per cent in Sheffield, 46 per cent in Leeds and 28 per cent in Newcastle

Retail sales rose in November, but could there be an Omicron crash? 

According to official statistics, UK retail sales grew in November due to shoppers hitting the high streets early for Black Friday shopping. Retail sales volume increased by 1.4% for November according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), accelerating from 0.8% growth in October.

Analysts had predicted that the growth rate would be stable at 0.8%, and this reading proved to be better than anticipated. On the other hand, sector sales volumes are 7.2% above their levels before the pandemic in February 2020.

Non-food retail sales increased by 2.2% in November, which was an increase of 2% over the previous month. This was highlighted by the 2.9% increase in clothing sales, which exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS, said: “Retail sales picked up in November, boosted by strong Black Friday and pre-Christmas trading. Particularly, clothing stores did well. They have increased their sales by more than half compared to pre-pandemic levels.

CNN reported that the Chancellor is now holding talks in person after cutting short his visit. He said that he understood this was a worrying time for leaders in business across the nation. “I have been in contact with business leaders from the industry and that’s why I have curtailed my travel and will leave earlier tonight.

He insisted ministers were not telling people to cancel their Christmas events, adding: ‘The situation is very different to what we’ve done and encountered before. We don’t tell people to cancel anything, nor are we closing businesses.  

The congestion level reported by TomTom in London at 8am was 40 per cent –  the lowest level all week. 

Traffic conditions in the same time period were today 33% at Birmingham, 36% Manchester, 40% in Liverpool and 34% in Sheffield. There was also 46 percent in Leeds. 

After being hit with a “double whammy” of employee absences, and plummeting customer confidence, pubs and restaurants are now closing earlier for Christmas.

Restaurants were told they could not continue to serve customers if their employees contracted the coronavirus.

Yesterday, Mr Sunak, Chief Secretary to Treasury Simon Clarke, called firms such as Prezzo, Black Sheep Brewery and Nando’s.

Labour has asked the government to create a support package to the sector, but the ministers have not yet committed to any cash.

Omicron’s surge in Omicron cases means that there could be hundreds of thousands more daily Covid cases than the UK.

It could result in millions of Brits becoming isolated, possibly causing major disruption to their workforce and key industries.  

After Professor Chris Whitty advised people to restrict socializing in the next days, Boris Johnson was accused by the hospitality industry of imposing a “lockdown through stealth”.    

Yesterday, Mr Johnson refuted the claims, saying to reporters that he didn’t want to cancel anything, that he wasn’t locking down stuff and that the fastest way back to normality was to be boosted.

Some pubs and restaurants in small towns are considering closing their doors rather than staying open. This is either due to the fact that many of their employees have contracted Covid or their reservations have almost all been cancelled. However, the majority of venues are still open while very few large chains have closed. 

Yesterday Evelyn’s Table was closed in London’s Soho. This decision was made by members of our core staff who had to become isolated. 

Some revellers in Leeds continued to celebrate last night on what would normally be one of the busiest nights of the year

Leeds revellers continued to party last night during what was normally one of the busiest nights in the year 

Helping hand: A man assists a fellow reveller with her footwear during an evening out in Leeds last night

A male friend helps a woman with her footwear after a night out in Leeds

A group of friends posing for the camera in Newcastle. Bars and restaurants are smarting from lower than normal demand

Newcastle: A group of friends poses for the camera. The demand for restaurants and bars is lower than usual, which means that they are more fashionable. 

Barrafina Drury Lane of Covent Garden stated that staff were isolating made the services unviable, while Kol at London’s Marylebone claimed it had no choice but to temporarily shut down while the ‘key team members isolate.

Darjeeling Express in Leicester Square said that it experienced a “double whammy” of staff sickness and huge cancellations, while Blend Kitchen reported a 50% drop in bookings. 

Following a record number of daily viral cases, which saw 146 deaths, Baroness Ruby McGregor Smith, president of British Chambers of Commerce, warned that businesses are now facing serious problems with their staff and plummeting confidence.

Britain could see up to 460,000 Covid cases per day by Christmas Eve, which would mean that two million people will be forced into isolation if the infection rate continues to rise as scientists anticipate. This could lead to major disruption in key services due to people staying home. 

Although government contingency plans allow for military personnel to be deployed to fill in gaps in certain services, such as the NHS and Border Force, if there is a severe shortage, these troops are not tested in real life. Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital Trusts in London reported that 10% of their staff is currently absent due to Covid. 

If the number of people testing positive doubles every three days, then there would be 463,704 daily cases on Christmas Eve. That would force the 1.9million people testing positive between now and then into isolation for 10 days, the equivalent of 3 per cent of the population

The number of positive tests per day would double every three days. That means that there will be 463,704 cases each Christmas Eve. This would place the nearly 1.9 million people who have tested positive in the last 10 days into isolation, which is equivalent to 3% of the total population. 

Such huge numbers could partially paralyse the country, causing 'huge disruption from people being off work' and threatening key services including the NHS and police, experts claimed. Graph shows: The number of NHS staff off work with Covid every day over the last two weeks. Dips on December 5 and 12 occurred on Sundays, when fewer staff are working and therefore less absences are expected. Figures are expected to increase in the coming weeks

Experts claim that large numbers of people could cause paralysis in the country. This would lead to ‘huge disruptions from people not working’, and potentially threaten the NHS and the police. This graph shows the number of NHS employees who have been absent from work for Covid over the past two weeks. The December 5, 12 and 13 dips were on Sundays when there are fewer employees working, and so fewer absences can be expected. In the next weeks, figures are likely to rise