Alas, it did not take long for the Omicron hysteria — for that is what I believe it is — to reverberate through the hospitality sector.

The phones started to ring in 300 Young’s restaurants, bars, and hotels within hours after the nation was informed of a new Covid strain in southern Africa.

It wasn’t all good news. Christmas party cancellations, cancelled dinner reservations, postponement of weekend events until December, and mini-breaks were canceled. 

The same scenario can be seen across the country, in both small and large cities as well.

Within hours of being told a new variant of Covid was identified, the phones started ringing in the 300 pubs in the Young's chain, says Chief Executive at Young's Patrick Dardis (pictured)

Within hours of being told a new variant of Covid was identified, the phones started ringing in the 300 pubs in the Young’s chain, says Chief Executive at Young’s Patrick Dardis (pictured)

Here’s when the most profitable and busiest time for hospitality is.

Many landlords and managers instead spent several days staring at blank pages, crossed out bookings or questions over any entries remaining.

It is yet another catastrophic knockback for our sector, which has been severely damaged by months of protracted lockdowns — and one that makes no sense in the face of the current evidence.

According to Dr Angelique, a South African doctor who identified Omicron in the Mail yesterday, it seems that the variant’s effects are mild for those infected.

Yet this has not stopped the Government reneging on its promise of the ‘irreversible’ easing of restrictions, and hastily rolling out fresh measures — among them compulsory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport — with the threat of more to come.

This is a recurring theme that we have seen before.


Now we have vaccines. We already have vaccines for a large portion of the population, and they promise a boost in booster rollouts within the next few days. So, why panic? 

It could not have been worse timing. It is difficult to emphasize how vital Christmas is for the hospitality calendar. For certain businesses it can produce over 25% of their entire year’s profit.

Many have been hanging on for dear life just to get to this point, following a phenomenally difficult two years — including last year’s effective cancellation of Christmas at the last minute — in an industry which, along with travel, has been among the worst hit by the pandemic.

Many companies are already in trouble due to the cumbersome effect of three lockdowns and the constant changing of rules. These could be the 10pm profit curfews, or the national tier system that allowed pubs within our chain to operate in certain parts of the country.

And who can forget the debacle that ensued when it was decided that alcohol could be served only with ‘a substantial meal’ — which left us debating whether a Scotch egg or a portion of chips would suffice?

After all of this chaos, we emerged to be engulfed by the terrifying ‘pingdemic’. This is when legions were made to stay isolated after they were ‘pinged” by the NHS Test and Trace app.

So, while the customers were back, there were barely any staff to serve them — with some premises having to close and lose out on vital footfall.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) tells us it will be a 'great' Christmas, only for Dr Jenny Harries, head of NHS Test and Trace, advising us not to socialise unless 'necessary'

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, tells us that it will be great Christmas. Dr Jenny Harries is the head of NHS Test and Trace and advises us to not socialise until it’s ‘necessary.

Finally, we were able to start planning for Christmas with a significant relaxation in all of these rules after the massively successful immunization program.

Until now. This latest lurch into fraught over-reaction is yet again placing livelihoods at risk — and all because of doomsday predictions by scientists whose worse- case-scenario prophecies rarely stand up to scrutiny in hindsight.

The constant fearmongering only is enhanced by inconsistent government messaging that flip-flops seamlessly from Pollyanna-ish cheers to ‘freedom,’ to the worst possible pessimism.

Sajid Javid the Health Secretary tells us it’ll be a great Christmas, but Dr Jenny Harries from NHS Test and Trace yesterday advised us to not socialise except if ‘necessary. 

Why doesn’t she say, “Let’s ban Christmas!”

The only thing that seems to be a constant link is the irrationality which appears to take over the government whenever there is a Covid mutation. 

Is it possible to recite the holy mantra, “Follow the science”, instead of this knee-jerk panicking approach?

We are faced with a festive pingdemic, further restrictions and more. If we keep going down this road, it could lead to a catastrophe in an already fragile sector. This may result in thousands more companies closing their doors.

This is an unreasonable practice that I do not believe has any merit. I urge the Government to reconsider before making an already difficult situation worse.