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Forget Omicron, will Long Covid be the real killer of commerce?

Diane Hall

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As the Omicron variant rampages across the news headlines as fast as it seems to be rampaging through the general public, everyone is braced for a rise in infections, a greater number of hospital admittances and the ensuing, unfortunate deaths we’ve come to bear from Covid.


By the time this article is published, lockdown 4.0 may be already in motion; at the moment, however, we’re in No Man’s Land. That period of uncertainty, where the Government is weighing up the risk to the economy and livelihoods from shutting everything down against the risk of unnecessary deaths if mixing is allowed to continue.


Businesses will no doubt be terrified at the moment, particularly smaller ones. A further loss of trade might kill some enterprises off altogether, unless Sunak reintroduces a financial cushion like before.

That said, many of the challenges businesses could face they’re already battling with—such as difficulties in attracting staff and ensuring continuity of their service.

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We are hiring on a board with a white wood background.

We are hiring on a board with a white wood background.

Recruitment was a real problem a few months ago, when many businesses were trying to keep up with demand as the country was once again allowed to operate (relatively) normally. For some sectors since then, the issue of recruitment has eased slightly; for others, it’s still no different.


The second point, ensuring continuity of service, is ongoing. Every single day, businesses have to plan how they’re going to get through that particular trading period…one or more of their staff members may be absent, having contracted Covid. On such short notice, it’s difficult to get different staff in to cover these absences. It’s perhaps fair that concessions are made by consumers/the public—businesses are trying to do the best they can under the circumstances.


The thought that this could be over at some point keeps most of us going. According to virus experts, the average life span of the average virus is around three years…so we could see the back end of Covid towards 2023. Even though that may seem a long time away—and even though we don’t know for sure that Covid will follow this life pattern—there’s the hope that this will all come to pass.


However…


Long Covid is often ignored, or even viewed as a mythical illness by some. And yet, the fallout from this syndrome could have an effect on businesses and how they run for many years to come—maybe even a long time past the life span of Covid.


There are plenty of examples across the internet of immune system failures and chronic exhaustion episodes in people who contracted coronavirus at some point in the pandemic. Though they recovered from the initial attack of the virus, what they’ve been left with is much worse.

covid particle

covid particle

Following the pattern of other chronic illnesses, such as M.E. and fibromyalgia, the effects of Long Covid can be intermittent. On good days, those with Long Covid can do many of the things they’ve always done, such as go to work and have a social life. On bad days, however, the strength needed to simply get out of bed is beyond them. For any employer to plan around this is impossible when the sufferers themselves don’t know when they’ll undergo a fresh attack.


As with many chronic illnesses, there is no cure. At this point, we don’t know if this is the case for people diagnosed with Long Covid, but the impact it could potentially have on people’s businesses and individuals’ careers is something no one wants to think about.


In September 2021, the ONS estimated that more than half a million people in the UK could have Long Covid, i.e. symptoms appearing more than 12 weeks after their original Covid infection, which are ‘activity limiting’. There are conduits with this statement, of course, as data is being collected all the time and there are no absolutes yet concerning Long Covid.


The situation is very much ‘wait and see’…but after every blow and punch small businesses have taken from the coronavirus, they may not have the stamina to see this particular challenge out.

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