Sixth COVID-19 wave prompts renewed labour crunch in restaurants, retail manufacturing

Businesses across Canada are struggling to cope with an apparent sixth wave of COVID-19, as staffing shortages hamper sectors from health care to hospitality and retail⁠ — though the interruption remains more manageable than last winter’s Omicron variant surge.

Dr. Kevin Smith, chief executive at the University Health Network in Toronto, said Thursday that cases have shot up in the past few days, “so much so that staffing is challenging once again.”

Rachel Reinders, who heads administration at the Lieutenant’s Pump pub in Ottawa, says it shut down its lunchtime kitchen for a week in March because four cooks were on sick leave simultaneously.

In Montreal, parka maker Quartz Co. saw about 10 of its roughly 100 employees stay home with COVID-19 symptoms in the last two weeks, though co-founder François-Xavier Robert says the absences were shorter than those in January.

Ryan Mallough, a senior director with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says retailers, gyms and event spaces are taking yet another hit as workers fall ill or steer clear of those sectors altogether, fearing further lockdowns.

Several Canadian provinces are bolstering their defences against the virus amid signs of a sixth wave, with Quebec and Prince Edward Island extending their provincial mask mandates until later this month and Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia planning to expand access to fourth doses of the vaccine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2022.

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