Catherine McGuinness: Omicron shows we are still not out of the woods

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As Christmas approaches, there’s a clear sense of excitement in the air – a feeling that this Christmas could be better than last.

There can be no doubt that 2021 has brought us closer to what feels like normal life. Britain’s vaccination programme has helped to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19, and allowed our economy to reopen in a way many of us had only hoped earlier this year.

Now, almost 20 million adults in the UK have had a booster jab and third dose to protect them over the winter.

But there is a cloud over us. The emergence of the Omicron variant and the rising infection rates in the capital, have caused a wave of uncertainty for many. It is a reminder that we are not out of the woods. We are still in a pandemic.

A return to work from home would once again throw many businesses into turmoil and disruption. Thankfully, 81 per cent of residents in the City of London over the age of 50 have had both vaccinations.

There is an army of dedicated people working to ensure our safety. This week, the Lord Mayor and I visited the Square’s Mile’s dedicated vaccination centre to encourage everyone to get their first, second and booster jabs – as well as flu vaccination.

We don’t yet know how serious the Omicron variant may be, so it is important that all of us do as much as possible to prevent its spread. Precaution must be our watchword.

During the festive season, more of us will see friends and family, and spend time in the plethora of vibrant shops our city has to offer. So using the tools at hand: vaccination, tests and face masks, as well as letting fresh air into cramped places, will help us keep our economy going.

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These simple measures seem a very small price to pay to enable us to live with COVID-19 and help prevent a rise in hospitalisations. People across the City have shown incredible resilience in following the guidelines throughout this pandemic, and I have every faith they will continue to do so.

Financial and professional services firms in the Square Mile have also demonstrated resilience during the pandemic, but there is no getting away from the fact that many other businesses have struggled in the past year. This is true particularly for those companies which were directly affected by the reduced footfall.

It has been fantastic to see the numbers on our streets rise steadily in recent months, and queues spilling out of cafes and restaurants is now a common sight. Our bars are busy and our pubs packed. So these measures are a small trade-off that we need to make this winter.

We must balance the need our economy has to stay open, the need we have to be able to see our loved ones, and the risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to others.

The City of London Corporation has encouraged a sustainable return to the Square Mile so that workers can experience the benefits of collaboration, innovation and socialising in a unique environment.

Since the campaign began, we have seen footfall in the City of London rise by more than a quarter.

The City’s revival will have a key role to play in enabling a strong and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in London and across the UK.

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