Relief as England eases pandemic lockdown

British business and trade organisations reacted with relief on Tuesday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the most sweeping relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions imposed three months ago.

Coronavirus graphic over a picture of a crowd
From July 4, whole sectors of the hospitality and leisure industry in England - including restaurants, pubs, cinemas, museums and theatres - will be allowed to reopen, although with some strict social distancing measures still in force.
There will, however, be a relaxation of the two metre social distancing rule, with one metre separation allowed in certain circumstances. And when serving indoors, pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to offer table service, and will be required to collect customers' contact details of customers for the national Test and Trace system.Mr Johnson told parliament that, "as we have seen in other countries, there will be flare-ups" of the pandemic and he said the government "will not hesitate" to reapply restrictions.He urged people to stay two metres apart where possible, but added, "Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end ...the bustle is starting to come back. We will continue to trust in the common sense of the British people."

British Chambers of Commerce: "still a long way from business as usual"

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the easing of coronavirus restrictions would be "cautiously welcomed" across England's business communities.But he added, “While the relaxation of the two-metre rule will help more firms increase capacity, we are still a long way from business as usual. Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis.“A comprehensive test and trace system, including a mass testing regime, must be in place to realise the benefits that the easing of restrictions could bring to firms across the UK, many of whom are relying on the swift return of consumer confidence.“Businesses also need a clear roadmap to recovery, including fresh support for the worst-affected sectors and geographic areas, and broader fiscal measures to get the economy moving again.”

IoD: easing of two-metre rule would bring relief to businesses

Edwin Morgan, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said the easing of the two-metre rule would undoubtedly bring relief to many businesses."A quarter of our members have said that under current social distancing rules, they are likely to operate at less than half capacity. For many, this simply isn't sustainable, particularly with the furlough scheme set to wind down," he said.
"This change isn't a panacea, and doesn't mean safety can take a backseat. If anything, the onus is now even more on directors to ensure rigorous mitigating measures are in place. In some cases, this won’t be easy or cheap. With many firms already strapped for cash, the Treasury should consider supporting companies to make the necessary adjustments, particularly as some haven't been able to access schemes so far."

UKHospitality: Getting venues open is the best way to secure businesses and jobs

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body UKHospitality, said that confirmation of a July 4 reopening date was "a real boon and affords businesses some time to make the necessary preparations".She added, “The government has given due recognition to how hard hospitality has been hit by this crisis. Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen. Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secure businesses and jobs.“We know that many people will be keen to get out and support their local pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, and to return to leisure and holiday pursuits."

UKinbound: "huge relief" to businesses across the tourism and hospitality sectors

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, a trade association representing the inbound tourism industry, said the announcement that pubs, restaurants, hotels and attractions would come as a "huge relief" to businesses across the tourism and hospitality industry."Reducing social distancing from two metres to one will also ensure that many more businesses will be able to viably reopen at the start of next month," he said."We're pleased that the government has also listened to industry and is on the verge of agreeing air corridors with a number of countries - a step that signals that the UK's tourism inbound industry is keen to welcome international tourists again."Although these measures are very much to be welcomed, government needs to recognise that whilst some businesses will hopefully be able to recoup a small proportion of their losses over the much shorter summer season, many businesses, especially those that rely wholly or mostly on inbound tourism, will have gone through the equivalent of three winters and will need further financial support if they are to survive and continue to drive jobs and growth across the UK."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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