Covid spoils Easter travel

Covid now more prevalent than ever in England. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated more than 4.1 million people had the virus on any given day over the week to March 26, equivalent to one in 13 being infected.

Thousands of Londoners were affected by the recent wave of Covid-19. The virus is now more rife in England than at any other time during the crisis, the biggest Covid surveillance scheme has suggested.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated more than 4.1 million people had the virus on any given day over the week to March 26, equivalent to one in 13 being infected. Scores of airport workers were down with Covid and it unleashes chaos at airports at Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff.

The figure is the highest ever recorded in England, topping the previous peak of 3.7 million at the height of the Omicron wave in January. It is also 18 per cent higher than last week. In the most Covid-ridden towns of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, as many as one in nine people were thought to have the virus. And infections have soared to pandemic highs in all over-35s.

Britain’s outbreak as a whole is also bigger than ever, with 4.9 million now thought to be infected — up from 4.3 million last week.

Statisticians said England’s surge was being driven by the more transmissible version of Omicron, scientifically named BA. Although, ministers admit that ditching the final Covid restrictions last month also fuelled the uptick. Despite the mass testing project warning that cases show no signs of slowing yet, top scientists are hopeful that the worst may be over.

Official numbers — reliant on people getting tested, as opposed to random swabbing — have been falling for a week, bolstering hopes that the virus was running out of steam, the report said.

EasyJet is planning to cancel more flights in the coming days due to high levels of staff absence due to Covid. Around 60 flights to and from the UK are likely to be grounded on Tuesday following 62 cancellations on Monday, BBC reported.

British Airways also cancelled 62 flights on Monday as travellers faced frustration on journeys ahead of Easter, the first holiday since the end of coronavirus travel restrictions. EasyJet said staff absences were double their normal levels due to Covid.

It said it had decided to cancel more flights in advance “in order to give customers notice”.

“We are contacting customers directly and providing them with their options,” it said. “We expect to make similar levels of pre-emptive cancellations over the coming days, due to the ongoing high level of sickness.”

Covid-related absences are compounding staff shortages at airports and airlines. The industry is struggling to recruit staff quickly enough to meet resurgent passenger demand, after thousands of jobs were lost and many workers left the industry during the pandemic. It’s led to long delays at security and check-in at some airports, with travellers at Birmingham Airport complaining of “chaos” on Monday.

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