Companies expect lack of workforce with Omicron spread in Latvia

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As the worst-case scenario of the spread of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 forecasts that a large proportion of the population will get ill, there might be a shortage of workers in many companies. Few entrepreneurs have a specific action plan, Latvian Regional Television reported January 5.

One of Latvia's big companies, glass fiber producer Stikla šķiedra, plans to step up safety measures at the production facility and further reduce the possibilities for contact among employees.

“We will increase the availability of special FFP2 masks for our 1100 employees. This is the first big step,” said the company's board member, Ģirts Vēveris. It is not possible to stop the production process at the plant and there is a shortage of working hands.

“If there were physically available people to recruit... It is increasingly difficult to find employees, there is still a need for qualifications for these people that we will potentially [employ],” Vēveris said.

Meanwhile, Bank of Latvia economist Oļegs Kasnopjorovs said that the impact of the Omicron on the labor market is still too early to assess. In his opinion, if companies suffer due to the rapid distribution of Omicron, state aid programs will come to the rescue. They have so far proven themselves to be an effective instrument for stimulating the common economy, according to the economist.

“It is clear that this type of virus is more contagious, but there are doubts as to whether it is more dangerous. If it is less dangerous then there will be no big impact on the economy. But even if distancing continues and mobility decreases, the impact on the economy will be smaller than at the beginning of the pandemic, because Latvian companies have adapted to the situation,” the economist said.

Meanwhile, international analysts estimate that even a quarter of the workers will be missing in the labor market soon. People will be infected or find themselves in isolation as contacts. Greece has reduced the quarantine period to five days, whereas the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland have reduced it to seven days. 

The head of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jānis Endziņš, said that discussions are also taking place in Latvia regarding the possibility of reducing the quarantine time for infected persons without significant symptoms of the disease.

“Every day is very important to ensure continuity of activity. It is not that, at one moment, a job or service is not available because of the Covid crisis,” Endziņš said.

He said that a survey of members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry had been conducted at the end of 2021 to see if entrepreneurs had developed a plan to proceed if the Omicron spreads rapidly. A large part of them had said they didn't have such an action plan.

Experience to date has shown that, in order not to stop operations, the best solution is remote work. But in manufacturing companies, it is desirable to organize the process in shifts so that human flows do not face.

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