Sainsbury’s scraps Christmas parties over Omicron fears

Sainsbury’s has postponed its Christmas parties until 2022 over fears that Omicron, the new Covid variant, could lead to staff shortages.

It comes just days after a government adviser recommended “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to”.

According to Reuters, chief executive Simon Roberts claimed Sainsbury’s had “gone above and beyond” to keep staff and customers safe.

“We… have asked all of our colleagues to wear a face covering both on the shop floor and in all colleague areas,” he said in a statement.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s shifts net zero target forward 5 years

“We have also asked all of our teams to postpone their celebrations until the new year and we will make sure that no one is out of pocket as a result of this decision.”

Roberts added that Sainsbury’s had consulted the employee representatives before making the decision.

Some experts believe that the recent tightening of self-isolation rules could cause another “pingdemic”, which left supermarkets under-staffed in the summer.

As of yesterday, there were 246 cases of Omicron in the UK.

In November, UK Health Security Agency boss Jenny Harries appeared to suggest that people should cancel festive events where possible.

“Our behaviours in winter – and particularly around Christmas – we tend to socialise more, so I think all of those will need to be taken into account,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jabs.”

Although Downing Street quickly distanced itself from the comments, some ministers seem worried by the new variant.

Last week, science minister George Freeman said companies should reconsider large parties, while work and pensions minister Thérèse Coffey cautioned against “snogging under the mistletoe”.

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