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The UK Warehouse Association (UKWA) warned this week that workers are struggling to meet peak season demand in the face of surging Covid infections.

SAGE member Professor John Edmunds warned that, taking into account unreported cases, there could have been around 400,000 Omicron infections in the UK by last weekend, with that number set to double every two days.

As the infection rate continues to soar, UKWA chief executive Clare Bottle said warehouse workers are facing a barrage of additional challenges.

“In warehouses across the UK, people are exhausted: tired out by the constant juggling act of managing conflicting demands in the face of misleading demand forecasts, uncertain transport operations, labour shortages and the daily threat that someone else will contract Covid19 and will have to self-isolate - or worse."

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She added: “Covid-19 infection rates were steadily declining earlier this year and there was cause for cautious optimism, but this Christmas, some people are more fearful about the pandemic now, than they were back then.”

Bottle added that so far it is a mixed picture amongst UKWA members, with some reporting little or no impact, whilst others are feeling the pressure.

“Where the virus continues to impact operations, seasonal handing requirements have increased and as experienced warehouse operatives isolate with the virus, the challenges are amplified, with temporary labour in short supply,” she said.

“Agency staff are being used where possible, but apart from that, it’s simply a question of pressurising existing staff to work more overtime and deferring any work that isn’t essential, to protect Christmas service levels,” she added.