Business chiefs are demanding an urgent lifeline for firms as new figures show 221,000 premises in England will be forced to close from Boxing Day.
Firms expressed their dismay as the UK government widened Tier 4 restrictions to cover more areas of England from 26 December. A further six million people and around 50,000 firms are estimated to be affected in the bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 and its new variant.
Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Waverley in Surrey, Hampshire bar the New Forest and all remaining non-Tier 4 areas in Essex have all been added to the full-scale lockdown in swathes of southern England. Restrictions are also being tightened elsewhere in the UK from Boxing Day.
Data from Altus Group suggests 168,000 ‘non-essential’ retailers in England will be closed once the curbs take effect in the new areas on 26 December. Some 14,500 restaurants, 13,000 pubs, 6,000 hairdressers and beauty salons, 6,000 cafes and 3,000 hotels also face closure. Figures were only available for England.
Car showrooms, betting shops, gyms and leisure centres, bars, clubs, museums, art galleries, theatres, cinemas and conference centres are among the other firms facing shutdowns of their premises.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said UK pubs and brewers faced the “longest winter in living memory.”
“Unless there is a greater package of financial support from the government to secure our pubs and the brewers that supply them, a wave of business failures in the new year is inevitable.”
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The British Retail Consortium called for the business rate holiday for hospitality and retail firms to be extended beyond next April. But it said focusing on both the vaccine rollout and more widespread testing would be “the biggest Christmas gift the government could give us all.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive, said: “The light at the end of the tunnel seems further than ever and many retailers — who are losing billions in sales with each passing week — will struggle under the new wave of closures.
“The time for debating future business rates relief is over, it is now an imperative.”
Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, also called for grants to be improved for the worst-hit companies and for more help for those who have not received support so far.
“It would be a huge shame to see viable companies go under with a vaccine just round the corner.”
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