Call for greater government clarity on route out of COVID restrictions

The CBI is calling on the government to provide greater clarity on the future direction of travel for some of the remaining big pandemic-related decisions in order to protect economic recovery. It warns that far-reaching questions remain on COVID-status certification and its use to reopen global travel and whether such a scheme will extend to certain domestic activities and the future of social distancing in England.

If the government can "show its hand sooner rather than later", firms can plan ahead more easily and spur economic activity, according to CBI president, Lord Bilimoria. He said: “The ongoing success of the vaccination roll-out and government roadmap have provided firm foundations for the safe and gradual reopening of the economy. The indicative timings have been invaluable in helping businesses to forward plan and develop contingencies with confidence.

“But with the end of the roadmap period looming ever larger on the horizon, firms are anxiously awaiting big decisions from government that will impact the way they run their businesses over the coming months.

“The future of social distancing in England and COVID certificates will affect all of our lives, so it’s important to start building consensus among businesses and the public for the way forward. Showing your hand sooner rather than later by communicating early and clearly, will help businesses to plan, prepare and invest. There is a risk of business plans stalling with decisions put off once again.”

Since its publication, the government’s roadmap out of lockdown has offered some guidance to enable firms to plan their arrangements for reopening or adjusting their operations. The CBI says that to ensure the final steps progress efficiently, clarity and publishing the data and evidence-base for decision-making will be crucial.

Current social distancing guidelines mean only two-thirds (68%) of staff can physically work on premises and firms are operating at 81% of pre-pandemic capacity according to a CBI survey. Lord Bilimoria added: “Many workplaces are not operating at full productive capacity right now. Businesses need to know what might be coming down the track to help prepare their strategies and investment plans. And, for some sectors this is mission critical. The viability of their business over the summer months will be impacted by the outcomes of the ongoing reviews.”

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