UK | Corona Crisis

UKHospitality warns against tougher measures

In the UK, too, there is debate and speculation about a tightening of the measures.
IMAGO / Zuma Wire
In the UK, too, there is debate and speculation about a tightening of the measures.

The debate over stricter corona rules in the fight against omicron is reportedly dividing the British government. Possible options range from recommendations to restrict contacts, to caps on private meetings and curfews, to a complete lockdown. In interviews, several ministers recently refused to rule out the possibility of tightening the rules before Christmas.

Responding to the ongoing speculation over about a potential imminent announcement of further Covid restrictions, UKHospitality CEO, Kate Nicholls, said: "Trading has already been hugely damaged by the steady stream of pessimistic news following the discovery of the Omicron variant, at a time when hospitality would normally expect to be making a quarter of its annual profits.

"We know from previous lockdowns that it causes venues to haemorrhage cash. It costs £10,000 to close each site and a subsequent £10,000 per month on overheads, and that was with full furlough and rate relief. The damage that closure wreaks on consumer confidence would also increase recovery time considerably, not least because it would be coming early in the year, at the slowest period of trading. Hospitality venues have invested huge amounts of money and resources to ensure a safe environment for customers and staff alike. Throughout the pandemic, businesses have always wanted to trade their way through to recovery and that sentiment is stronger now than ever.

"However, trading levels are so poor that the need for proportionate Government support is already acute, and urgently necessary if businesses, jobs and livelihoods are to be secured. An extension to business rates relief and the lower VAT rate will help longer term planning and budgeting but speedily delivered grants will be vital to short-term business survival. To minimise further damage, it is also crucial that the Government gives as early a signal as possible about whether measures are to be imposed and what they might be, in order to allow businesses to salvage something from Christmas and the New Year."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson currently lacks the political and moral authority to implement measures consistently. On the one hand, almost 100 members of his own party recently rebelled at a comparatively moderate tightening because they see the introduction of 3-G checks for clubs and large events as an encroachment on British freedoms. On the other hand, Johnson has been criticized for several alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street.