Employers should prepare now for high rates of staff sickness that could kick in as soon as Omicron breaches the border and last until spring or beyond, Otago University professor Michael Baker warns.
“If and when Omicron gets here, it is going to really add to the burden of absenteeism this year,” Baker said.
“Also, if the borders are open, we would be expecting a more severe flu season and the other respiratory infections that dominate in winter.”
Baker said that assuming the Government stuck to its current timetable of opening the border with Australia to a large degree in March, the country could expect the rapid spread of Omicron and “very high levels of absenteeism for several months”.
That was despite Omicron generally seeming to be a milder illness than other Covid variants, he said.
Bloomberg reported that British businesses were with dealing with an “impossible” number of Covid absences, which threatened to snowball as a result of knock-on cuts to rail and other transport services.
Britain’s Centre for Economics and Business Research said on Monday that a “conservative” estimate of 8 per cent absenteeism in January and February could knock £10.2 billion (NZ$20b), or 2.6 per cent off the country’s GDP over the period.