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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 0.9% between October and November. This figure was above expectations and meant that the economy was 0.7% stronger than in February 2020.
However, following the release of the Omicron variant and the introduction of Plan B Covid measures, growth slowed again.
ONS chief executive Grant Fitzner said: “The economy grew strongly in the month before the Omicron strike, with architects, retailers, couriers and accountants having a bumper month.
“Construction also recovered from several months of weakness as many raw materials became easier to obtain.”
According to an analysis by Capital Economics, the rise in GDP was due to a 3.5% growth in the construction sector.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak
London city skyline
They claimed that “the unusually dry weather probably helped as well.”
Capital Economics also said manufacturing output improved and the professional sector also recovered due to “advanced architectural and engineering activities from December.”
However, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, warned: “GDP almost certainly fell in December as households retreated in response to the Omicron variant.”
The Omicron variant first appeared at the end of November and the new Covid measures were introduced on December 8.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson
These measures include a return to mask-wearing in indoor public places, vaccine passes and working from home when possible.
However, these restrictions in England are set to be reviewed this month as the government decides whether or not to keep them.
Research shows that the Omicron variant is less lethal than previous variants of concern, such as the Delta variant.
Mr. Tombs added: “Omicron looks set to fade almost as quickly as it came, thanks in part to the rapid deployment of booster shots.
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UK Covid figures
“As a result, we expect the government to allow Plan B rules to automatically expire on January 26 and GDP to rebound in February.”
The Prime Minister confirmed on January 5 that Plan B would continue until at least January 26.
He said: ‘In response to the latest data, the cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick to Plan B for another three weeks with further review before the settlement expires on January 26.’
The highest daily death toll since last February of 398 was recorded on Wednesday, but cases, while still high, are now falling.
City of London
Hospitalizations are also not rising rapidly and have remained about the same, according to the most recent data available this month.
Consideration of Plan B measures will depend on a range of factors, including the general safety of people and whether the NHS is able to cope with a high number of cases.
Plan B will likely look at whether dropping restrictions will lead to more education and healthcare staff being isolated.
Due to periods of isolation, the NHS is currently experiencing a staff shortage, as are schools.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak
In a bid to address these shortages, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the isolation period for fully vaccinated people in England who test positive for Covid will be reduced from seven to six days.
He told parliament: ‘Two-thirds of positive cases are no longer contagious by the end of the fifth day.
The move raises concerns and could lead to an increase in infections.
The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) previously called the plans “counterproductive”.