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Omnicron variant
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What the new variant means for accountants

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While we are all heartily sick of Covid-19 Philip Fisher suggests that accountants should not ignore Omicron, which could be a real threat to business and take affirmative action. 

6th Dec 2021
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Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the office, a new variant of coronavirus rolls up and threatens to be even more dangerous than those that we have seen to date.

While travel companies and grandees in the hospitality industry reinvigorate their whining about profitability, civilians split into two camps.

Two schools of thought

The more level-headed group, which is likely to include the majority of accountants, will be deeply concerned about threats to health.

Having already seen around 150,000 people die of this pernicious virus, there has to be a serious worry that many more could find themselves in hospital during the winter and some of those may not survive.

That point about hospitals is highly relevant, since the Delta variant had already pushed them close to breaking point, with around 300,000 UK citizens falling ill every week, even if a relatively small proportion are now finding their way into hospital thanks to vaccines and community immunity.

The remainder of the population appears to have had enough of the virus and prefers to ignore the threat in the hope that it will go away. This might seem strange behaviour to their polar opposites, who might like to draw an analogy with bombs falling on London during the blitz.

When air raid sirens went off, there will undoubtedly have been a small proportion of citizens who could no longer be bothered and took their chances sitting at home under the kitchen table. However, the safe option followed by almost all was to take cover and seek protection in tube stations or bomb shelters.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that coronavirus has similarities to a bombing raid, although it is quieter but on the other hand never lets up.

Little is known

As this article is penned, nobody in the United Kingdom has much of an understanding regarding the potential implications of this new variant. Indeed, like the obscure letter after which it is named, it is all Greek to us.

Government ministers, as always, takes the view that until they know that there is definitively a disaster about to occur, they will pretend that all is well.

Indeed, it comes as something of a surprise to see that those who hate wearing masks are advocating them, although after all of the vacillation it remains to be seen whether this new law will be ignored by vast swathes of the population.

What the new variant means for accountants

As always, readers of this column will be most interested in what the new variant might mean for accountants, our staff and our businesses.

We should take a very different view from Boris Johnson and his cohort, following the principles of prudency.

This should mean asking ourselves whether our offices really need to be open? We managed to run pretty successfully for a year or more from home and it might be wise to consider a return to that practice at least for the next few weeks until the outlook becomes clearer.

There is also a specific question about mask wearing, which may or may not be compulsory for those in the profession.

According to the latest guidance as reported in the media, masks are now compulsory in offices of “high street solicitors and accountants”. What on earth does that mean? I haven’t a clue.

If it does apply to your office, that means staff and partners sitting around for eight hours a day (okay, much longer in many cases) wearing claustrophobic masks throughout, which presumably precludes coffee breaks and swiftly grabbed sandwiches at lunchtime.

There is also a clear and present danger for staff in city offices, who will be putting themselves a great risk by travelling on public transport.

If, as initial reports suggest, an estimated 50% of the population cynically plans to break the law by ignoring the mask mandate, then that puts everybody travelling with them at greater risk.

As always, the last thing that we need is any one of our members of staff falling ill.

Although the regulations are once again somewhat unclear, if any staff member does go down with this variant, they will need to self-isolate for 10 days, along with anyone else who has been a close contact.

Tax return season

This is the last thing that we need in the run-up to Christmas, when the tax return season is beginning to hot up and there had been a chance that normality was just around the corner at long last.

It will be fascinating to get views from readers as to whether they fall into the category that would have headed for bomb shelters during the blitz, cowered under the kitchen table or wandered around in the streets shaking their fists at Messerschmitts daring them to do their worst.

One might even wonder whether anyone put in earplugs and went around the usual business, the closest parallel to what has been happening recently.

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