The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has welcomed the sentiment behind the Prime Minister’s ‘living with COVID’ strategy but warned the Government must do more to support businesses in its wake.
BCC Co-Executive Director, Claire Walker, said: “Businesses will welcome the ambition of the Prime Minister, which inches us closer to pre-pandemic trading conditions. However, for many firms, this move will not be without its challenges and Government must not pass public health decisions on to the business community, who are not public health experts.”
Under the strategy, all COVID restrictions will end in England on Thursday (February 24) and free mass testing will stop from April 1. The legal duty to isolate for those who test positive will also be dropped.
The BCC said free testing was key to keeping workplaces open and said employers needed guidance on isolation and what might happen should there be further outbreaks in the future.
Ms Walker said: “Members continue to tell us that access to free testing is key to managing workplace sickness and maintaining consumer confidence. If the Government is to remove this, companies must still be able to access tests on a cost-effective basis.
“We look forward to consulting with Government to help shape the new guidance for businesses that will be developed. It is critical that a variety of issues and scenarios be fully addressed by this. Businesses need clarity if they are to operate at maximum capacity, as well as keep consumers and employee’s confidence high.”
She added: “Businesses also need to understand how Government will respond to further variants of concern – or indeed a future pandemic – and what support would be put in place if new guidance or mandatory restrictions are introduced that have a negative impact on the economy.
“Firms will only truly be able to ‘live with COVID’ when they are confident that a plan is in place for future outbreaks. Uncertainty will put a brake on investment and the shadow of the pandemic could continue to loom over our economy for some time to come.”