Boris Johnson‘s new raft of restrictions have dealt ‘a devastating blow’ to business communities, the head of British Chambers of Commerce has said.
Industry leaders insist it will now be ‘much harder’ for firms to survive, and have pleaded with the government to fix testing to avoid a third lockdown as millions prepare for a return to weeks stuck at home.
After weeks insisting he is sticking to local restrictions, the PM completed a humiliating U-turn tonight by announcing blanket coronavirus restrictions for England at a press conference alongside medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.
The draconian measures – being billed as ‘Tier Four’ on the government’s sliding scale – are set to come into force from midnight Thursday morning after bleak Sage modelling projected the virus could kill 85,000 this winter, far above the previous ‘reasonable worst case’.
However, the move will provide further damage to an economy which has already been battered by the crisis.
It emerged earlier this month that the UK economy grew by just 2.1 per cent in August as the recovery from the pandemic’s impact stalled despite Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics showed that the rate of growth was much lower than the 4.6 per cent which analysts were expecting.
The 2.1 per cent figure is also massively down on the 6.4 per cent expansion recorded in July.
Adam Marshall, director general of British Chambers in Commerce said tonight market confidence has been ‘hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach’ taken by governments across the UK during the pandemic.
He said: ‘Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions.’
Boris Johnson’s new raft of restrictions have dealt ‘a devastating blow’ to business communities, the head of British Chambers of Commerce has said
The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics suggests the UK’s V-shaped recovery from the coronavirus crisis is slowing
He called for Government support for businesses facing hardship, whether through loss of demand or closure, to be boosted.
He said: ‘The Government must not squander the time afforded to them through another lockdown to enable mass testing and fix test and trace systems – which hold the key to a lasting exit strategy for both public health and the economy.’
Pubs and restaurants will close under the new lockdown plans, and the Campaign for Real Ale has called for further support to be provided while doors are shut.
National chairman Nik Antona said: ‘The second lockdown is a devastating blow for an industry that is already on its knees. Pubs across the country have already invested thousands to reopen COVID-safe environments despite facing seriously reduced incomes.
‘The Government must introduce a support package for all pubs and breweries – regardless of their current rateable value – and extend the furlough scheme for the full period of lockdown.
‘We also need a clear route map out of lockdown which is based on evidence, otherwise we will see many pubs and breweries close their doors forever.’
Elsewhere, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, described a lockdown of non-essential travel and retail as ‘a true nightmare before Christmas for West End retailers’.
The West End employs one in 10 Londoners, and this year’s run up to Christmas is shaping up to deliver ‘some of the most difficult trading periods we’ve ever experienced’, he said.
Pubs and restaurants will close under the new lockdown plans, and the Campaign for Real Ale has called for further support to be provided while doors are shut
Mr Tyrrell added: ‘Many jobs have already been lost, and many more are at risk, unless trading levels increase or furlough is reinstated.
‘In addition to emergency support to cover lost wages, the Government must make an immediate announcement that it will maintain essential support measures such as continued business rates relief after April next year.
‘Retailers and the public need to be reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as continued uncertainty and stop-start measures are undermining confidence and worsening an already catastrophic situation.’