The effect of the Omicron variant on Edinburgh local businesses this Christmas

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The City of Edinburgh has been one of the local authorities with a higher number of people testing positive for COVID-19 over the holiday period. The Insider has analysed relevant data provided by Public Health Scotland   and has visited some of Scotland’s capital local businesses to ask how they have coped during the festive days.

A month before Christmas, everything seemed to indicate that Scotland was going to live their first more or less ‘normal’ holiday in 2 years. The number of positives cases for COVID-19 was low, with only 18,057 identified across the nation in the week between 20 and 26 November 2021, 1,673 of them in the City of Edinburgh.

However, everything changed on 27 November, when the first cases of the Omicron variant were reported in the UK. According to the Scottish Government, the first six cases of the variant in Scotland were identified two days later.

Since then, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 experienced an incredible rise and between 18 and 24 December, the week before Christmas, 59,185 were reported in Scotland. The most affected local authorities were Glasgow City, with 8594 new cases and Edinburgh City, with 7041.

The bad news did not stop as the cases in Scotland reached their peak during the holiday’s main week, from 25 to 31 December, with a total of 104,782 identified, the highest number recorded since the pandemic began. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on 29 December that the Omicron variant accounted for around 80% of these new cases.

Cases decreased in the first week of the new year, but the number was still high, with 92,273 people testing positive for COVID-19 between 1 and 7 January. In Edinburgh, 7887 cases were reported that week, over 1500 less than the 9437 reported in the preceding seven days.

Figure 1. Cases in Scotland

Figure 1 shows the number of 7-day positive PCR cases and 7-day positive PCR rate per 100,000 population in Scotland per week from 20 November 2021 to 7 January 22. In it, a great increase of the cases can be seen in the week between 25 and 31 December, the main week over the Christmas period. A decrease in the number of cases occurred in the week from 1 to 7 January. Data gathered from Public Health Scotland.

Figure 2. Cases in Edinburgh

Figure 2 shows the number of 7-day positive PCR cases and 7-day positive PCR rate per 100,000 population in Edinburgh per week from 20 November 2021 to 7 January 22. In it, it can be seen that significant increases in the cases took place in the weeks from 11 to 17 December, 18 to 24 December and 25 to 31 December. Like in the rest of Scotland, A decrease in the number of cases occurred in the week from 1 to 7 January. In the week from 11 to 17 January, almost 13% of the cases in Scotland were identified in Edinburgh. Data gathered from Public Health Scotland.

Figure 3. Infographic

The data displayed above, added to the travel restrictions that came into force in December, contributed to the decrease in the number of visitors coming to Scotland’s largest tourist destination.

The lack of tourists has affected Nuria, supervisor at the Heritage of Scotland shop located along the Royal Mile. “We have had around 50% less costumers this Christmas compared with the years before the pandemic, although it has not been as bad as we thought it would be,” she says.

She also explains that many people have gone back to their countries and therefore, “it is hard to find people to hire.” This has added up to employees having to self-isolate. “Many of our staff has had to quarantine during the holidays and sometimes, we did not have enough people to come to work,” she tells.

A view of Heritage of Scotland shop on the Royal Mile. ALBERTO LEJARRAGA MOLINA

At Petit Paris, a small French restaurant located in Edinburgh Grassmarket, they have also suffered the consequences of this winter’s infection wave. Next to the wine shelve, Baptiste, the manager, explains that the day Sturgeon asked people to stay at home, they had 50% of cancellations. However, he says that in the end, they have had enough people. “We have not had tourists, but many locals have come. We are lucky because we have many regulars.”

Baptiste poses between some tables inside Petit Paris. ALBERTO LEJARRAGA MOLINA

Finally, North West Circus Patisserie Florentine seems to have resisted Omicron’s impact, as like at Petit Paris, its manager Julian explains that they have a lot of regulars. “Maybe we have had a little bit less of customers, but it has not had much impact.” However, they have all had to do extra hours as sometimes, members of the staff had to self-isolate.

The outside of Patisserie Florentine, on North West Circus. ALBERTO LEJARRAGA MOLINA

When asked about their wish for this 2022, they all have the same one: the end of the pandemic. Something that may become true, since the latest data shows a significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in the week between 5 to 11 January. 56,317 people have tested positive in Scotland during this 7-day period, over 50% less cases than the previous week. Hopefully, it means that by the end of this year, Christmas can be just like the ones we used to know.

About Post Author

Alberto Molina

Journalist who is passionate about culture, history, architecture, the environment and reporting everything that is happening
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