France: Many sectors of the economy at risk of ‘disorganization’ due to Omicron cases

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Will Omicron layoffs be the next financial nightmare after the first wave of the pandemic? Concerns are growing about a possible general disruption due to the storm expected in January.

There are many areas that are at risk of absenteeism due to the “hundreds of thousands” of cases per day, said Olivier Guerin, a member of the French Scientific Council. Among others, food distribution, security, energy, transport, telecommunications, health.

Council President Jean-François Delfresi expressed concern about a “possible disruption of certain vital services”.

The Omicron variant has not yet become prevalent in France and does not cause mass quarantines due to many positive cases or contacts with patients. But the warning signs are here and the headlights are turning to the sixth wave expected in January.

In the railway network, the company SNCF finds some minor problems in the suburban, but not in the main lines. RATP is “not worried at the moment” and the Post Office says it has no problem. In aviation, Air France does not have so many pilots or other quarantined crew members that it is forced to cancel flights.

However, the Scandinavian company SAS was forced to cancel dozens of flights on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the absence of its sick employees. Lufthansa faced the same problem on international flights, without confirming that the cause was the Omicron variant. Today, more than 2,000 flights are canceled worldwide, most to the United States.

In crafts and small construction companies, an area already plagued by staff shortages, “close contacts and positive cases mean we are losing workforce and it will be difficult to fill the gap,” said Capeb president Jean-Christophe Repon. , speaking on France Info radio station.

The government is trying to appear reassuring, with Health Minister Olivier Veran saying there is a “forecast” that the country will continue to operate in the areas of health, education, transport and the economy. “We must avoid the phenomenon of paralysis of the country,” he added.

The finance ministry told AFP it was monitoring the situation closely, at a time when many sectors are likely to seek help.

The government strongly recommends teleworking, but 44% of the active workforce say they do not have such a possibility, according to a mid-December poll by the Harris Institute on behalf of the Department of Labor.

As a matter of fact, this is true for the spectacles, where due to the launch of the events, performances at the Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horses, the Théâtre Mogador in Paris were canceled, reminiscent of the dark days of spring 2020.

In the United Kingdom, the Royal Mail reported that staff absences are currently double compared to 2018, while sick leave on trains has multiplied, according to the Financial Times. Britain, hit by Omicron before other countries, recorded 120,000 positive cases on Thursday.

“It is very likely that the activity of some companies will be significantly affected, simply because Omicron is much more contagious,” said Roel Bitzma, a professor of economics at the University of Amsterdam. This has already happened in Belgium, where the Audi plant in Brussels closed for a week at the end of November, due to the many cases of Covid-19.

Because of this risk, the French government is considering revising quarantine protocols. Veran stressed that “we must be prepared for the possibility (…) of a not insignificant number of people being diagnosed, at the same time, that they are close contacts or positive cases, even if without symptoms”.



Source From: Capital

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