Omicron print shop in Canterbury with Covid variant namesake say ‘we just want to make people smile’

The owners of a printing business in Kent which shares its name with the new Covid variant have found themselves the subject of renewed popularity since the discovery of Omicron.

Omicron Reprographics managing director Mark Fawcett-Jones said he wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces since the news of the new variant was first reported by i.

With customers wondering what influence the printing business has on those carrying out the genomic sequencing of Covid variants, he and director Dave Loveridge decided to explain via their Instagram page, posing for a photo in hazmat suits.

“Just to clarify, we did not create the Omicron variant,” a caption alongside the picture read. “Although we’re not taking any chances…”

So far, the company has only received positive feedback, with Mr Fawcett-Jones, 47, telling i trade at his shop hasn’t been affected by the name duplication. Some locals told him they had been thinking of the shop ever since the new variant name was revealed.

He said: “I was quite shocked that they called this new variant Omicron – it’s obviously quite an unusual word. In fact, many customers for years have struggled with the word, especially when sending emails, we get all sorts of different spellings.

“I have to say though, it’s helped get the word out there about our store. Selfishly, I was worried about the impact it would have on the company, but so far our trade hasn’t been affected, so I can’t see it being a negative thing.”

He stressed the business did not want to be seen to be trivialising the uncovering of another highly mutated coronavirus variant and added “it’s obviously a really important issue”.

“We just wanted to bring a little light-heartedness to a really serious situation. It’s been so hellish for everyone, and mentally very bad,” he said.

“I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, but we need some sort of humour out there, just to make people smile. It’s been so awful for everyone, but so far we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”

Mr Fawcett-Jones bought the business in 2008 but it has been around for 25 years, becoming well-known throughout the South East – but before the Covid variant was identified, it tended to only be Greek customers who recognised the name.

“We actually took the company over from a Greek chap who was retiring – we were formerly called Plan Express, but Omicron already had a good brand going, so we kept the name,” Mr Fawcett-Jones said.

He added: “It’s only been in the last few months that we have got back to the normal pre-pandemic turnover. So we are nervous about this new variant, although of course it’s not so much of a shock now.”

Currently, scientists are divided over whether the new Omicron Covid variant will prove more resistant to existing vaccines than the dominant Delta strain, as ministers scramble to boost the UK’s immunity while the world awaits further data.

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