So I’m assuming you’re not one of those wise folk who got their Christmas presents sorted back in August, when Omicron wasn’t even a blip on the variant horizon. Me neither. The good news is that Christmas shopping, at time of writing, is still allowed, and it’s highly unlikely that there will be any ban on non-essential shopping over the coming days. So, yes you can. But bear in mind that on Tuesday the First Minister announced new rules that required retailers to bring back “physical distancing, measures to control the flow of customers and protective screens” at cash desks, as well as limits to the number of people in stores.
What will that mean?
More queues outside buildings. These are pretty much inevitable once physical distancing and number limits are introduced. So, wrap up extra warm, download a new podcast or audiobook onto your phone, and be prepared for the odd bit of standing around. On the more positive side, for the crowd-haters out there, it does mean that you’re unlikely to end up nose-to-nose with a fellow shopper.
Is there anything I should do to keep myself and everyone else safe?
You already know the drill. Mask up. Do a lateral flow. The advice, since November 22, was to take a lateral flow test before hitting shops and crowded retail centres. If you’re not already doing it, start doing it now. Of course, that does rely on you actually having got hold of a pack of the tests, which has proven, in recent days, to be a bit of a challenge for many. A box of lateral flow tests is the ultimate must-have and nab of the season. Pick some up from a pharmacy while you’re out – if you can.
Have fewer people been going out shopping because of Omicron?
Last week, Associated British Foods, which owns Primark, noted that the stores had suffered little impact from the arrival of Omicron. But further restrictions are bound to have an impact on high street stores. The parcel delivery service ParcelHero has claimed that the arrival of the Omicron variant means “a second £35 billion online Christmas”. Online shopping is, of course, safer and helps prevent the spread of the disease, but leaves high street retailers in the lurch.
What other Christmas shopping problems might Omicron cause?
Empty shelves and staff shortages.There are concerns that surge in Covid cases is likely to hit warehouses, supermarket and haulage. Royal Mail has said it is facing high levels of sickness.
Any other etiquette tips?
Be polite and friendly to the shop workers. Wear your mask (unless you’re exempt) and give them that pandemic smile with your eyes. Covid has brought so much abuse to retail workers. Let’s make sure they have a happy holidays too.