Former Tesco chief executive and government supply chain tsar Sir Dave Lewis has said the emergence of the Omicron variant has exposed the need for major change to avert further crises.

Dave Lewis, former chief executive of Tesco

Dave Lewis, former chief executive of Tesco, is the government’s supply chain tsar

In an email sent by Lewis to participants in his supply chain review, he warned that the “seismic move in consumer shopping habits…together with a global shipping challenge has shown the pressure on our existing supply chain infrastructure”.

Lewis also said that a new strand of work focused on examining the future of the UK’s freight industry would begin in the early part of next year.

“The opportunity to step back and strategically consider infrastructure options, which reflect the changing consumption habits of the population, the decarbonisation agenda and the need to enhance supply chain capacity and resilience, is very real,” he continued, according to reporting from Sky News. 

Lewis was appointed by prime minister Boris Johnson to lead a three-month review of the UK’s supply chain. 

His remit was to suggest “immediate improvements and any necessary long term changes to UK supply chains for goods”.

Lewis was also tasked with “identifying the causes of current blockages and pre-empting potential future ones, and advising on resolutions either through direct government action or through industry with government support”.

The former Tesco chief executive, who was this week appointed as chair-designate of GlaxoSmithKline’s healthcare arm, was also tasked with co-chairing the supply chain advisory group and a new industry task force.

Lewis said his review had focused on “the identification of the triggers the government would need to pull to enhance the capacity and resilience of the supply chain in rapid order”, adding that “action on this point should be visible in [the first quarter of 2022]”.

The UK retail sector in particular has been hit hard throughout the year by ongoing shortages of HGV drivers, while the pingdemic in the summer pushed many food retailers in particular to the brink. 

While Lewis addressed many of these issues, he warned that the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant could reverse any gains made. 

“Obviously we are all critically aware that the Omicron wave puts this work under new pressure,” he said.

“Key sectors appear to have good contingency plans in place, but the situation is changing very rapidly so we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

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