Business Comments On Latest COVID Announcements In England
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:
“The Government deserves credit for striving to keep the economy open and adapting to live with the virus.
“Despite this pragmatism, ‘Plan B’ measures have hit consumer confidence and dented demand. Recent financial support has given some businesses breathing space, but the Government must closely monitor the impact on all affected sectors and stand ready with further help if needed.
“Booster jabs are helping to reduce the severe effect of the virus on many people’s health. But with infection rates remaining high, the level of sickness and self-isolation is biting hard across the economy. It’s welcome that Government is taking extra steps to get tests to critical workers and easing PCR requirements, and it’s now vital that wider testing supply challenges are gripped.
“Testing and self-isolation measures have had a significant impact on demand for international travel, so the easing of these requirements is a very positive step towards the goal of a return to restriction-free travel.
“Looking forward, all businesses now need clarity on what the route map out of Plan B looks like as soon as it’s safe to roll back these restrictions.”
Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the BCC, said: “Businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that there are to be no further COVID restrictions to add to their mounting difficulties.
“Many businesses already have their backs to the wall as they juggle with soaring inflation, rising interest rates, depleted cash reserves and fresh tax demands.
“For some sectors, such as the night-time economy, which has been effectively shut or under restrictions for the best part of the last two years, Omicron could well be the final death knell.
“Government must be open to continuing to provide support to those in the greatest difficulty so they can ride out this fresh storm and be ready to contribute to the UK’s recovery.
“An essential component of that is the speed at which firms can access the grant funding announced before Christmas. It is vital this money is distributed as quickly as possible to those in critical need.
"The easing of testing requirements for travel should provide a welcome boost to a sector that has been among the hardest hit throughout the pandemic.
“But urgent action is needed to address issues with the supply of lateral flow tests to make sure the workforce is not isolating unnecessarily. Too many businesses are telling us that their staff cannot get access.
“We have been told of absence rates of more than 25% at some firms this week, which is having a huge impact on their operations. Many are worried this is going to critically impact on supply chains and put pressure on cash flow at a time when economic conditions were already difficult.
“This lack of testing capacity is also adversely affecting the confidence of consumers who want to be assured that they are COVID-free before they go out and meet friends in hospitality and leisure premises.
“The Government must do all it can to address issues around isolation and fully assess the scientific data to make sure it is kept to a safe minimum without adversely affecting infection rates.”