The British Chambers of Commerce has welcomed the Prime Minister’s roadmap for the reopening of businesses, events and activities in England, but said it was critical the stop-start approach to lockdowns came to an end.
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC, said businesses needed clarity and honesty from the Government and called for key business support schemes to be extended as many firms were hanging on a cliff-edge.
Dr Marshall said: “It is helpful that many businesses across England can now see a path to restart and recovery. Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
“Even with the Prime Minister’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs still hangs by a thread.
“Many hard-hit businesses simply don’t have the cash reserves needed to hold out several more months before they are allowed to reopen.
“Businesses will hold the Prime Minister to his pledge to support firms for the duration of the pandemic, as this gruelling marathon nears its end. Businesses have haemorrhaged billions of pounds over the past year and need action now.
“All the key support schemes for business should be extended – through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 – to ensure that as many viable firms as possible can make it to the finish line and recover.”
Subject to conditions being met for the easing of restrictions, the Prime Minister has said all schools will reopen on March 8 and two people allowed to meet outdoors.
From March 29, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households will be allowed, while outdoor sports, including football, golf and tennis, will also resume.
Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality will reopen from April 12, including theme parks and zoos. Overnight domestic stays will also be permitted. The rule of six or two households will apply outdoors and one household indoor, while ‘self-contained’ accommodation will reopen.
From May 17, indoor hospitality will be permitted, including indoor sport and all remaining accommodation and outdoor entertainment will be able to re-open and resume. Outdoor events will be limited to 10,000 or 25% for seated venues and 4,000 or 50% for others; indoor events will be limited to 1,000 or 50%. ‘Life events’, such as weddings, will be limited to 30.
All restrictions on social contact should be lifted on June 21.
Dr Marshall added: “It is critical that alongside the pace of the vaccination programme, workplace testing is expanded to businesses of all sizes and continued for as long as is necessary – to help keep our companies and communities open over the months ahead.
“The safe restart of international travel is critical to UK trade, to hundreds of thousands of UK jobs, and to the prospects for a Global Britain. Companies want hard answers and a coordinated international approach agreed as soon as possible.”
He concluded: “The long wait continues for some businesses of critical importance to our local economies, including events. The task forces convened to look at how to reopen these sectors must deliver results quickly.”