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British Foot Traffic Takes a Step Back

Declining footfall in the U.K. could continue for a few more weeks as Covid restrictions are extended by as much as one month, but foot traffic could get a boost in the second half of July when schools have their summer break.

U.K. foot traffic fell 6.7 percent last week in the aftermath of gains in the prior week from the school half-term holiday that coincided with the Spring bank holiday, according to U.K. data research firm Springboard . Activity dipped in all three destinations types. High streets fell 9 percent, against a rise of 17.4 percent in the previous week. Shopping centers dropped 7.5 percent after an 8.7 percent rise the week before. And retail parks slipped 0.9 percent following the 2.3 percent gain in the prior week.

“U.K. retail destinations suffered post bank holiday blues last week, with footfall dropping back by around half of the uplift recorded in the week before, when the school half term holiday coincided with the Spring bank holiday and amazing weather. Despite this, the gains made in the week before meant that the gap in footfall from 2019 remained narrower than at any point since the start of the pandemic other than last week,” Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director, said.

Wehrle expects that since the removal of Covid restrictions are set to be delayed as much as a month, footfall is “not likely to strengthen significantly over the next four weeks. However, it should receive a huge boost in the second half of July, particularly as this coincides with the start of the school summer break.”

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U.K. Covid restrictions setting limits on the number of people meeting indoors and out and business hours for nightclubs and similar establishments, as well as the rules on face masks, were set to be relaxed on June 21. Nonessential retailers were already allowed to open on April 12. But over the last few weeks, there’s been a spike in new cases involving the mutation of virus that first surfaced in India. Dubbed the delta variant, the increasing spikes in cases had U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson in “cautious” mode over the weekend as he considered an extension of restrictions to avoid a reintroduction of lockdown  measures down the road.

Johnson is expected to announce that the lifting of restrictions will be pushed back for a few weeks, possibly as late as July 19. While nonessential retailers can remain open, gatherings of people will remain limited to six when indoors and up to 30 outdoors.

Meanwhile, American biotechnology firm Novavax Inc. on Monday said its Covid vaccine has an efficacy rate of 90 percent, particularly among the variants that originated in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, which have since been renamed alpha, beta and gamma, respectively. The new delta variant was not in existence at the time the vaccine was conducted in trial tests in the U.K. and Mexico. Novavax is expected to seek regulatory approval in the third quarter of this year.

Last weekend, world leaders at a G7 Summit pledged one billion Covid doses to developing countries, either directly or through a Covax program co-led by the World Heath Organization, to get as many people vaccinated globally as fast as possible.