London Christmas shopper footfall slumps amid surge in Covid Omicron cases

A quiet Oxford Street in London at 09.00am today as the government refused to rule out introducing further restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus Picture date: Wednesday December 22, 2021.
A quiet Oxford Street on the Wednesday before Christmas. Credit: PA

There was little sign of the typical pre-Christmas rush on Oxford Street on Wednesday as shopper numbers in central London tumbled by more than a quarter against pre-pandemic levels amid high Covid infections in the capital, according to the latest figures.

The West End saw footfall decline on Tuesday by 27% compared with the same day in 2019, the New West End Company said.

But the figures were 10% higher than the Tuesday of the previous week, but numbers are significantly down as many people choose to remain at home amid soaring coronavirus numbers.

Businesses called for more financial support as trade as the retail industry once again faced difficult Christmas.

Liberty London on Great Marlborough Street on Wednesday morning. Credit: PA

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said on Wednesday: “Once again we are seeing fewer customers on the high street than there were two years ago.

“Retail and leisure businesses will have spent significant amounts of time and money preparing for a busy Christmas period, only for people to understandably stay at home in the face of rising Covid rates.

“It is therefore vital that they receive the financial support required to get them through the winter months – support that must go further than the limited package announced by the Treasury yesterday.

“We must see tangible relief for the retail industry, alongside more substantial measures for leisure businesses.

“Otherwise we run the risk of more much-loved brands being forced to close in the coming months.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched £1 billion of financial support packages aimed at the hospitality and leisure sector on Tuesday, but provided limited funding for other impacted areas such as retail.

Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “The latest trading figures show just how tough the trading picture is on the streets.

“While we all need to abide by the health advice, the effects of work from home and what amounts to an unofficial lockdown are clearly keeping many people at home.”

Figures from NHS England show that 1,904 people were in hospital in London with Covid-19 as of December 21, the highest number since March 2 and is up 41% from a week earlier.