LONDON – Visitor numbers in London’s main shopping and entertainment district were just over half of the pre-pandemic level on Dec. 26 and also fell compared to a week earlier, data for one of the year’s traditionally busiest shopping days showed.
Britain is undergoing a record surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The rise has kept many shoppers and diners at home, heaping pressure on retailers and hospitality firms that rely on seasonal trade.
The New West End Company, which represents 600 brands, restaurants and businesses in London’s West End, said footfall on Dec. 26 was down by 16% from the previous week and down 44% from the same day in 2019.
“London continues to feel the effects of the Omicron variant, with swathes of people choosing to remain home to browse the sales online rather than risk travelling into city centres,” New West End Company CEO Jace Tyrrell said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering possible further restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus in England and will hold a meeting with officials and ministers to discuss the latest data on Monday.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already introduced new rules.
Hospitality industry bodies and bricks-and-mortar retailers have said further restrictions could force some to close. They have urged the government to provide clarity on its pandemic plan and to support affected businesses.