Chamber reacts as second UK lockdown looms

Chamber reacts as second UK lockdown looms

England is set to go back into a full coronavirus lockdown on Thursday 5 November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.  

Mr Johnson said the tough new action was required to prevent a 'medical and moral disaster' for the NHS.

Under the new rules, pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close for four weeks.

However, schools, colleges and universities won't close like they did during the first lockdown earlier in the year.

And provided the 'R' rate of infection goes down, restrictions will be eased on 2 December, with regions going back into the tiered system currently in place.

The full list of businesses which will be forced to close includes: 

  • Food and drink venues for consumption on-site, such as restaurants and cafes
  • Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars, nightclubs
  • Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and bingo halls
  • Museums and galleries
  • Spas, wellness centres and massage parlours
  • Casinos and betting shops
  • All indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms

Employees are being advised to work from home wherever possible. Those who cannot do so, such as people who work in the critical infrastructure, construction or manufacturing sectors, will be allowed to travel to work. So will public sector employees working in essential services, including education.

All non-essential retailers will close, but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough), which had been due to end on 31 October, will be extended. Payments will be set at 80% of employees' wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee. The new measures will be 'time-limited', starting on 5 November and ending on 2 December. 

Employers can bring furloughed staff back to work part-time basis, or furlough them full-time, and must cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions.

Parliament will vote on Wednesday whether to accept the new lockdown rules, but they are expected to pass and be implemented on Thursday. 

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber, said: "Confirmation that we are going into a second national lockdown is hugely disappointing news for businesses that have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely, and is a clear signal of the Government’s failure to create the world-class test and trace system it had promised us.

“Business and market confidence have been hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach taken by Government over the past eight months, with little end in sight.

“While we welcome the extension of the furlough scheme, this may not give sufficient confidence to employers to preserve jobs in the long term.

“It’s also important to note that this support is aimed at individuals rather than businesses that have invested lots of money on reopening. It’s crucial the Government comes up with a quick response to plug this income gap for businesses already facing a cashflow crisis.

“We are also concerned about the lasting impact this lockdown could have on the high street and hospitality sector. Many businesses were just beginning to get back on their feet and gearing up for the beginning of the festive period to offset the losses incurred earlier in the year, but this month-long lockdown may be one setback too many.

“The economy must not be allowed to grind to a halt as it did earlier this year. In sectors that can remain open, such as construction and manufacturing, it’s vital they receive full encouragement to do so. The messaging from Government in March was about full lockdowns, which meant many closed when perhaps they could have stayed open.

“What is clear is that this lockdown should not continue any longer than necessary. The Government must use this period to fix the ailing test and trace system once and for all in order to finally take the brakes off our economy.

“We will be examining the detail of new restrictions and support carefully over the coming days. Business communities will judge them on whether they are clear and evidence-based - and on whether businesses are able to see when these restrictions may come to an end.”

 

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