(Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

Businesses in NSW and Victoria are likely in for another difficult holiday season as reports of cancelled Christmas gatherings and staff shortages accumulate. Staff who are close contacts or positive cases combined with cautious customers who don’t want to risk infection amount to a grim outlook for hospitality in what could have been a triumphant return to form post-COVID. 

In some parts of Europe, Christmas is literally cancelled. Restrictions and lockdowns are back and the WHO chief is recommending cancelling Christmas plans. Meanwhile in Australia, no one’s in lockdown -- and yet in some states, the fallout of life with COVID in the community may amount to the same thing.

Even before the return of capacity limits for hospitality in NSW announced yesterday, data from Google suggests that in states where COVID is circulating, retail and hospitality are being avoided (whether by choice or quarantine mandate).