UK businesses get behind vaccination rollout

John Lewis, Timpson, Boots, Ikea and Marks and Spencer are among a number of companies supporting the rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme. John Lewis has donated space at its Waitrose head office to be used as a local vaccination hub.

The company is also actively encouraging its 78,000 partners to sign up as volunteers to support the vaccination programme rollout, and offering full pay to those who take time off work to receive the vaccine.

Marks and Spencer and Heineken have offered the use of their empty properties as vaccination centres, as well as guiding colleagues on how to volunteer; and Uber has been providing free rides for those who need one to receive their vaccination.

Calling for even more businesses to get on board as part of a visit to Pall Biotech in Portsmouth, Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it had been “awe inspiring” to see businesses lending a hand over the past few months.

“Businesses and their workers have shown an indomitable spirit and leadership that will help us to defeat this virus, and I urge all businesses, no matter how big or small, to join us and do what they can as we reach the next stage of the rollout,” he said.

“I want to thank British businesses for their ingenuity and collaboration which will help guide us towards the light at the end of the tunnel, which is getting brighter by the day.”

The visit follows this week's announcement that the UK has surpassed its mid-February target of vaccinating over 15 million of the country’s most vulnerable people with their first coronavirus vaccine dose. Some 15,576,107 people had been given a first dose by the end of 15th February; 546,165 people had been given a second dose by the end of 15th February.

Cases, meanwhile, are falling. Some 10,625 new people had a confirmed positive test result reported on 16th February 2021. Between 10th February and 16th February, 86,321 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows a decrease of 27.8% compared with the previous 7 days.

The combination of falling case numbers and a hugely successful vaccination programme are raising hopes of good news from the Number 10 on Monday, when the government is expected to announce its plan for the gradual easing of national lockdown measures.

The percentage of businesses experiencing a decrease in turnover in the last two weeks, compared with normal expectation for this time of year, has risen from 42% in December 2020 to 46% in January 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. Of the businesses currently trading in the accommodation and food service activities industry, 8 in 10 have experienced a decrease in turnover in the last two weeks, compared with the normal expectation for this time of year.

Meanwhile, the proportion of businesses' workforce on furlough leave increased to 18% in mid-January 2021, though this is considerably lower than during the first national lockdown (starting in March 2020), where 30% of businesses' workforce were on furlough leave in early June 2020 (when comparable estimates began).

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