Unions today warned Omicron has left public services in a ‘perilous state’ with recycling centres forced to close and bin collections under threat in London – while flights were grounded and trains cancelled.

Lewisham council announced its main reuse and recycling centre will be shut until Wednesday and black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections.

Local government chiefs have said nationwide staff shortages are particularly acute in waste collection, as well as other areas including social care and child services.

More than 2,200 flights were scrapped globally yesterday, FlightAware tracking data shows, with Heathrow cancelling 60 flights on Sunday. Gatwick said it had only three cancellations out of 215 flights on Sunday, and none yesterday.

It came as rail services in Warwickshire were suspended ‘indefinitely’ after rising numbers of staff fell ill, including services between Leamington Spa, Nuneaton and Coventry.

Lewisham council announced its main reuse and recycling centre (pic) will be shut until Wednesday and black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections

Lewisham council announced its main reuse and recycling centre (pic) will be shut until Wednesday and black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections

Lewisham council announced its main reuse and recycling centre (pic) will be shut until Wednesday and black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections

It added that black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections

It added that black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections

It added that black bin collections would be prioritised in the event of delays to recycling collections 

LNER, Greater Anglia, Northern Rail, Avanti West Coast, ScotRail, and TransPennine Express have each reported disruption. The latest national data from Christmas Eve showed 5.4% of trains were cancelled compared to an annual average of 2.9%.

Jon Richard, the assistant general secretary of Unison, the public services union, told the Guardian: ‘Key health, council, care and police services have so many staff off that lots are worried they will not be able to keep going.

‘That’s why extra measures to curb virus spread are of the utmost importance in the coming weeks. Years of cuts have left services with just enough staff to get by in normal times. Now Omicron has put paid to that, leaving services in a perilous state.’

Concerns have also been raised about the reopening of schools after the Christmas break, with Paul Whiteman, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, warning some pupils could be sent home if there aren’t enough staff to teach them.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC that absences had reached at ‘unsustainable’ levels at some schools, with up to 25% of staff off in the week leading up to Christmas.

‘We don’t know what next week will look like. We’re not catastrophising that but we are saying we must have a sense of realism around this,’ he said.

Other industries have been hit too, with West End actors being called up with just four hours’ notice due to cast members contracting Covid.

Charlotte Kennedy, 27, was given four hours’ notice to play Cosette in a production of Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre.

She told the Telegraph: ‘It was a really, really quick turnaround. I had a costume fitting, they decided what to do with my hair [there was no time for a wig fitting] and then I was just going over my lyrics, hoping they would stick.’

In the NHS, as many as 40% of its London staff could be absent in the ‘worst case scenario’ envisaged by Professor Alison Leary, chair of health care and workforce modelling at London Southbank University.

A total of 18,829 NHS staff at acute trusts were absent due to coronavirus reasons on December 19, up from 12,240 a week earlier.

This equates to around 941 staff calling in sick or isolating per day – putting further strain on the already stretched NHS.

Meanwhile the retail sector – which has already been battered by the pandemic – also faced shortages of staff during the Boxing Day sales.

It comes amid fears they will be further hit when people return from Christmas, having mixed with family and friends and spread the Omicron variant.

Gatwick, the UK’s second-busiest airport, said that it had only had three cancellations out of 215 flights on Sunday. While coronavirus has been blamed for many of the worldwide cancellations, severe weather in the US has also contributed.

Holidaymakers in search a winter getaway had their trip delayed by 12 hours during a chaotic day at Manchester Airport.

Passengers had been due to leave Manchester for Turin at 8.10am on Boxing Day, but didn’t get in the air until about 12 hours later.

They are eventually expected to arrive in Italy at about 10.30pm, meaning they will have missed out on a day of their festive break. 

People spent hours stuck on planes as they waited to leave. 

The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months

The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months

The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months

Michael Ackroyd, from Saddleworth, Oldham, was one of those affected by the delays.

He and his family were looking forward to starting their skiing holiday when they were caught up in the disruption.

Flight operator Tui has apologised to passengers, and confirmed the plane has now left for Italy.

The firm said the disruption was caused by a ‘technical issue’. Mr Ackroyd said the plane that passengers had been due to fly to Turin on had a ‘leaky toilet’.

They waited on the plane for ‘three hours’ until passengers were removed from the aircraft, so a replacement plane could be found.

Several hours later, passengers were then brought onto a new plane, at about 3.45pm.

After another hour, Mr Ackroyd said they were told there wasn’t any ground staff available to transfer baggage onto the new plane for another hour.

The flight eventually left at about 7.30pm.

UK Government statistics show how the number of Covid tests being conducted has reached 1.5m a day, with the number of swabs carried out having increased massively since Omicron first emerged

UK Government statistics show how the number of Covid tests being conducted has reached 1.5m a day, with the number of swabs carried out having increased massively since Omicron first emerged

UK Government statistics show how the number of Covid tests being conducted has reached 1.5m a day, with the number of swabs carried out having increased massively since Omicron first emerged

Passengers were given vouchers to spend on food during the day, but one said they were told there were no meals available on the evening flight, just snacks including crisps, chocolate and biscuits.

‘With kids on board, no food and the heightened risk of COVID, though everyone should have had a PCR within 48 hours or lateral flow test with 24 hours, tensions are rising, people are distressed and patience is wearing thin,’ a passenger said.

‘To say the conditions are a disgrace is an understatement.

‘To the staff onboard the plane’s credit, they are keeping calm, answering questions and working hard making phone calls to sort out the mountain of issues this has caused.’

The delays have also affected travellers due to take the return flight from Turin to Manchester.

A TUI spokesman said: ‘We would like to apologise for the inconvenience to our customers on flight TOM2726 from Manchester to Turin which was delayed due to a technical issue.

‘We can confirm an alternative aircraft has now departed from Manchester and customers are on their way to Turin.

‘The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority and we would like to thank passengers for their patience and understanding at this time.’

Passengers took to social media to blast their waiting times at airports due to a lack of staff.

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow over the weekend as Covid staff shortages started to hit

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow over the weekend as Covid staff shortages started to hit

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow over the weekend as Covid staff shortages started to hit

Jamie Gloyne said: ‘Hey @united what is going on at Heathrow? All these people will miss their flights unless you can check us in quicker.’

He added on Twitter: ‘Never seen such lack of organization. This is chaos.’

Amira Rasool said: ‘London’s airport is really trying to gain the title of top flight security of the world.

‘Like leave my travel size mascara and Korean skincare products alone, sis.

‘Never doing another transfer through London Heathrow again. How do you take people’s travel size items from their bag because it does not fit in the one small plastic bag that you allow and then make us pay to get it back or suggest we buy new ones at your airport?

‘I ask the manager why only one plastic bag instead of two and she said for security reasons. But they let us pick the items?

‘Girl, just say you know it’s about the airport wanting us to buy products from them or pay their company to have it shipped and stop with the BS.’

Robyn Hoffe posted: ‘We are still waiting for my moms bag to be delivered. She landed at heathrow from JNB 19/12.

‘We have followed all protocols, told it would arrive 21/12 then it was sent to Edinburgh.’

She added: ‘Then promised it would be here 23/12. Now we are told case closed?? Help please!’

A man called Maz put: ‘Are any of the Heathrow leadership team parents? Try going through Heathrow border control with your kids, the queues are always long esp for UK nationals, it sucks…

‘Oh and social distancing in non-existent at Heathrow. ‘Oh and social distancing in non-existent at Heathrow.’

After numerous flights were cancelled yesterday, domestic travel was also hit by illnesses among staff which hampered services.

Plans over the festive period are being badly affected by a triple threat of industrial action, planned closures and staff shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

West Midlands Railways announced yesterday morning that services between Leamington Spa, Nuneaton and Coventry had been suspended indefinitely.

A spokesman added: ‘The Coronavirus pandemic – and more recently the Omicron variant – has had a significant impact our workforce meaning more of our colleagues are having to self-isolate.

‘Whilst we make every effort to run the planned train service, we need to let you know that in December, we will be making changes to services between Leamington Spa – Nuneaton via Coventry. It will be served by rail replacement bus until further notice.’

TransPennine Express, ScotRail, Avanti West Coast, Northern Rail, LNER and Greater Anglia have all reported an impact on services caused by a lack of available staff.

Meanwhile, East Midlands Railway services continue to be affected by industrial action by the RMT union, with an amended service expected to run on January 2.

A number of routes are also being impacted by planned engineering works.

Southern’s Gatwick Airport trains are operating to and from London Bridge instead of London Victoria until January 3.

In the north, Leeds will have a reduced service between December 27 and January 3, including a ‘very limited’ service on January 2.

In the west, CrossCountry trains will not call at Bristol Parkway between December 27 and December 31. Some Great Western Railway services to and from Bristol Temple Meads will also be affected.

Despite the closures, National Rail said that 95% of Britain’s rail network will remain open during the festive period.

It added the 370 engineering projects it is carrying out over Christmas were planned ‘months, and in some cases years, in advance’.

Commuters and travellers to the capital can expect similar travel woes, with the Tube hit by planned closures.

The Piccadilly line has been closed between Heathrow Airport and Acton Town until December 30.

There is no service on the Jubilee line between Willesden Green and Wembley Park nor on the Metropolitan line between Wembley Park and Aldgate until December 28.

The Metropolitan and City line has been shut completely since December 23 and will not reopen until ‘early January’, according to TfL’s website.

The London Overground is shut between Gospel Oak and Stratford until December 29. 

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