Coronavirus easing delay a 'hammer blow' to business

1 August 2020, 12:08

Business bodies have labelled delays to the further easing of lockdown a "hammer blow"
Business bodies have labelled delays to the further easing of lockdown a "hammer blow". Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Trade bodies have labelled the delay in the easing of lockdown restrictions a "hammer blow" for businesses and consumer confidence.

Major groups, including the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), have said that while tackling the coronavirus pandemic is the priority, it has dealt a devastating blow to business owners who were preparing to reopen on Saturday.

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, prime minister Boris Johnson said the UK "must squeeze the brakes" on lifting lockdown measures and announced that many non-essential leisure venues could not reopen as planned.

Reacting to the delay, BCC co-executive director Claire Walker, said: “While tackling the public health emergency must be the priority, these announcements - made at short notice - will be a hammer blow to business and consumer confidence at a time when many firms were just starting to get back on their feet.

“Businesses communities need as much clarity as possible from government if they are to plan ahead and rebuild their operations in the coming months.

"Ministers must also consider extending support to all firms, many of whom will be forced to close for an even more prolonged period, as well as targeted measures to help businesses placed under localised lockdowns.”

The Prime Minister announced on Friday that casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and indoor performances will not be free to restart as planned and that further reopening would be postponed until at least 15 August.

It follows a slight increase in the number of new coronavirus infections in recent weeks and concerns over a possible second wave travelling across mainland Europe.

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “This news will come as a real disappointment for some businesses, but firms know that public safety comes first.

"Businesses will continue to do what is necessary to avoid an infection spike. “Delayed reopening will unfortunately lead to even more financial pressure for some companies.

"So there may yet be a need for more direct support to shore up cash flow, including extended business rates relief."

The Music Venues Trust, which represents small grassroots venues, said it was "saddened but not surprised" about the announcement and called on the Government to provide extra help to struggling businesses.