New coronavirus measures a blow to businesses, but clear timetable welcome - CBI

The Prime Minister today laid out in a Commons statement the details of new coronavirus measures in England, including renewed advice to work from home for those that can, and 22:00 closures for the hospitality industry. There are no plans for a wider lockdown, however.

People are also strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in any other enclosed spaces where there are people they do not normally meet.

And from Wednesday 23rd September, people will need to wear face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles and in hospitality venues when not eating or drinking.

From Thursday 24th September, in retail and hospitality settings, staff will be required to wear face covering.

"Unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months," Boris Johnson explained.

"For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the House and the country that our fight against it will continue. We will not listen to those who say 'let the virus rip'; nor to those who urge a permanent lockdown."

"Bitter pill"

CBI director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the new rules will come as a blow to many businesses, but that managing the risk of spread was vital.

“A second national lockdown would be devastating for our economy, so it’s right to prioritise bringing infections under control. But there can be no avoiding the crushing blow new measures bring for thousands of firms, particularly in city centres and for our hospitality sector employing over 4 million people. It is vital that all announcements of restrictions go hand in hand with clarity on the business support that protects jobs.

“A clear timetable is welcome, but six months will come as a shock to many. Every possible step should now be taken to bring that horizon forward. This requires a turbo-charged testing regime to help control the virus quickly.”

On changes to return to workplace guidance, she said: “Renewed advice to work from home where possible will keep our town and city centres under great economic pressure, just as people were starting to make their way back. While action is necessary, it comes at a serious price. Remote working has brought real benefits to people and businesses, but we also lose a lot from missed human connections in the workplace.

“Our pubs, cafes and restaurants have had it hard throughout the crisis. Earlier closing times will be another bitter pill and it’s clear this sector will need more help over a longer period.”

On a business support plan for the autumn, she said: “There must now be a new plan to support businesses this autumn. This should start with a successor to the Job Retention Scheme and allowing cash-strapped businesses to defer their VAT payments from the last quarter -- a no-brainer given this latest blow to our economy.”

"Testing is currently our single biggest weapon against the virus. It’s time for a united national push to turbo charge testing capabilities. Firms stepped up when PPE and ventilators were in short supply. They are ready to do the same to accelerate testing capability. Private sector capacity matched with agile government procurement could be transformational.

“The prize is huge: fewer outbreaks, more people safely back in workplaces, and greater confidence across the economy, from our high streets to our airports.”

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