Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement that the government will introduce new local restrictions and postpone the planned re-opening for some business from August 1st, 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 further easing of lockdown restrictions in England – due to come in to force last weekend – has been postponed for at least two weeks, after an increase in coronavirus cases.
Casinos and bowling alleys will remain shut, as Boris Johnson said it was time to “squeeze the brake pedal”.
Face coverings will be mandatory in more indoor settings, such as cinemas.
England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, warned the UK may have hit its limits on easing restrictions.
Appearing alongside the prime minister at a special Downing Street briefing, Prof Whitty said the “idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control” is wrong.
Asked whether it was safe for England’s schools to fully reopen to all pupils in the autumn, he said it was a “difficult balancing act” but “we have probably reached near the limit, or the limits, of what we can do in terms of opening up society.”
Speaking at the briefing, Mr Johnson said planned changes to guidance for those who have been shielding during the pandemic, and advice for employers, will still go ahead.
The rethink on easing England’s lockdown follows new restrictions for people in parts of northern England, after a spike in virus cases.
The prime minister said progress in tackling coronavirus continues, with the daily and weekly number of deaths falling, but warned that some European countries are “struggling” to control it. The UK must be ready to “react”, he said.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday suggest infection rates in England are rising, with around 4,200 new infections a day – compared with 3,200 a week ago.
The ONS’s estimates of daily cases – based on a sample of households completing swab tests – are higher than the figures for lab-confirmed cases reported by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) because they include people without symptoms who would not otherwise have applied for a test.
Highlighting the ONS figures, Mr Johnson added: “The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May.”
He said that with “numbers creeping up” it was time to “squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control”.
He urged people to “follow the rules, wash our hands, cover our faces, keep our distance – and get a test if we have symptoms”, summing the advice up with the slogan: “Hands, face, space, get a test”.
A further 120 people have died with Covid-19 in the UK according to the latest DHSC figures, bringing the total number of virus deaths to 46,119. Meanwhile, 880 new lab-confirmed cases have been recorded.
Source: BBC News & British Chambers of Commerce