Firms demand urgent support as Covid restrictions tighten

Linda J. Dodson

Industry chiefs have called for urgent support for businesses amid warnings that tighter restrictions on social gatherings could deal a further body blow to consumer confidence.

Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as part of new rules introduced by the Prime Minister to try and limit the spread of coronavirus and prevent a second wave.

Pubs, restaurants and retailers are expected to be allowed to remain open, while the rules will not apply to schools, workplaces and Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised sporting events. 

However industry bosses have warned that the changes risk a knock-on effect on consumer confidence, which has enjoyed a recent boost following the launch of initiatives such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.  

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the announcement could lead to a “knee-jerk” reaction among nervous consumers leading them to cancel bookings at restaurants, pubs, hotels and other hospitality venues.

She added that the changes risked pushing back the reopening date of some businesses such as nightclubs and events venues, which have remained shut since lockdown restrictions were imposed in March.

“This comes just as we were getting really positive momentum from the summer of rebuilding consumer confidence, which is still really fragile,” she said.

“Some businesses remain closed by legislation and today’s announcement pushes back the start date for any of those and that has a really big impact on jobs, particularly when you’re coming up to a winding down of the furlough scheme.

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