Return of eating out this week show signs of boosting British economy

Return of eating out this week show signs of boosting British economy

Britain's economy is expected to start its recovery as Omicron restrictions were lifted and people returned to dining out at restaurants hit hard by staff illnesses and shortages. Picture: Helena Lopes/Pexels

Britain's economy showed tentative signs of picking up last week as a wave of coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant eased after businesses suffered a widespread fall in turnover during December.

Tax data released on Thursday showed a six percentage-point gap last month between the proportion of firms reporting falling sales and the proportion reporting a rise — the biggest net fall since April 2020 near the start of the pandemic.

Economists have forecast Britain's economy may lose around half a per cent of output over December and January due to the Covid-19 surge, which led to widespread staff absences and prompted many people to limit socialising.

Britain's economy is being watched closely as an international test case after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered relatively light restrictions in December to slow Omicron's spread.

The world's fifth-biggest economy only regained its pre-pandemic size in November, after output fell as much as 25% at the start of the pandemic when the country went into lockdown. Business surveys have shown a big hit to activity in December, especially for hospitality and beauty businesses, as many customers stayed home.

But there are signs that a slump in the number of diners started to reverse last week.

Restaurant reservations in the week to January 17 were 93% of their level in the equivalent week before the pandemic, up from 88% the week before although still well below the 134% recorded in the week to January 2.

  •  Reuters

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