Pledge to keep economy going
Britain at ‘perilous turning point’ says Johnson
Boris Johnson: ‘we must act’
New measures to combat the coronavirus were announced across the UK today as Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that Britain has “reached a perilous turning point”.
Pubs and restaurants will close early in Scotland, England and Wales, workers will be urged once again to work from home, while sports and conference venues will remain shut.
Scotland will also introduce tighter restrictions on household gatherings, forbidding people visiting other homes. This extends nationwide the ban on household visiting already in place in the west of Scotland, where the limits appear to be reducing infection rates.
The virus, said Mr Johnson, is growing fastest among those aged between 20 and 29 and he warned the restrictions could continue for six months.
Together with the First Minister of Scotland he urged those who can work from home to do so, reversing his recent calls for people to return to their offices.
Pubs and restaurants will be forced to close by 10pm and table service will be required.
“I am sorry this will affect many businesses just getting back on their feet, but we must act,” Mr Johnson told the Commons.
He said the government’s objective is to keep businesses going. “This is a balanced and proportionate response to the crisis we face,” he said.
“Our objective is driving the virus down while keeping the vast majority of the UK economy going.”
The rule of six is extended to all indoor team sports in England.
The limit on wedding guests will be reduced from 30 to 15, though 30 will be allowed at funerals.
A return of spectators to sports events and conferences, planned for 1 October, has been postponed, north and south of the border.
Mr Johnson said the restrictions were “in no way a return to the lockdown” that took place in March, but will restrict people’s movement.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later announced that similar measures would be introduced in Scotland “to avoid the need for another lockdown”.
She told the Scottish Parliament: “We are determined to keep schools open… restart as many health services as possible… and we must protect people’s jobs and livelihoods, and that means keeping businesses open and trading as normally as is feasible.”
On homeworking she said that employers who have encouraged workers back to the office “please rethink that now”.
Nicola Sturgeon: employers may face a legal duty on homeworking
She said that if necessary the government would introduce a legal duty on businesses to allow people to work from home.
Business reacted with frustration to the new limits imposed on the hospitality sector in particular, although there was relief that a full lockdown, even a short period of total closure, was avoided.
Share prices rebounded slightly following sharp falls on Monday. The FTSE 100 index closed up 25.17 points, or 0.4%, at 5,829.46 last night, having fallen 202 points in the previous session. CMC Markets analyst David Madden said: “The London market gained ground in the wake of the update as the rules weren’t as tough as some originally feared.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce called for both governments to continue working closely together.
“Every restriction imposed is a risk to jobs. We need to see an immediate joint plan between the Scottish and UK Government with a package of support measures ready to go which gives businesses the confidence to plan, prepare and trade,” she said.
“We also require clarity on when the data and restrictions can be reviewed and lifted.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “Sadly, this is likely to be the last straw for many businesses which were only just managing to break even.
“The immediate survival and future sustainability of the industry is now dependent on a tailored furlough package for the sector, a permanent reduction in VAT to 5% beyond 2021, a business rates holiday until the end of March 2022 for all tourism businesses and a recapitalisation of borrowing – a mechanism for creating business liquidity for businesses which are quite simply running out of cash.
UKHospitality executive director in Scotland, Willie Macleod, said: “Lots of businesses will not survive this and we are going to see more and more people lose their jobs unless we have the support to counterbalance these restrictions.”
Food and Drink Federation chief executive, Ian Wright, said: “These new restrictions on the UK’s fragile hospitality and food service sector are a potentially fatal blow to manufacturers who specialise in supplying the hospitality sector.
“Many pubs and coffee shops will not be able to trade profitably under these new rules and will have to close again, with further threats from enforced closure due to local or national lockdowns. Those businesses and their suppliers also now face losing their furlough lifeline.
Ian Wright: ‘potentially fatal blow’
“We encourage government to heed the recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee and consider a targeted extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the hospitality sector and its manufacturing supply chain.
“With a vaccine and end to social distancing, these ‘squeezed middle’ businesses will thrive again. By extending their support through this unprecedented but limited period, these businesses can play a full part in building a jobs-rich recovery beyond the pandemic, preventing the unnecessary economic damage of business closures and the scourge of long-term unemployment.”
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland policy chairman, said: “Disappointingly, what we didn’t hear at Holyrood or Westminster were details of new help for firms forced to reduce hours or shut up shop. We also can’t forget about those businesses that haven’t been able to re-open due to ongoing restrictions.
Tracy Black: new plan needed (pic: Terry Murden)
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, 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.”
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: “Businesses understand that further restrictions are necessary to tackle the rising number of Coronavirus cases, but these measures will impact business and consumer confidence at a delicate time for the economy.
“Businesses, their employees and customers need to see a clear road map for the existing restrictions and those that may be introduced in the future. This must include transparent trigger points, and clarity about the support available to protect jobs and livelihoods.”
“The government should waste no time in setting out a comprehensive support package for firms forced to close or reduce capacity through no fault of their own.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the Tory government must perform an urgent u-turn on plans to axe the furlough scheme next month – warning it would be “unconscionable” to put thousands of jobs at risk during a second wave of the virus.
Mr Blackford said it was vital that there was clear public health guidance – with concerns over conflicting and inconsistent UK government messages on encouraging millions of people to go back to the office prematurely.
The new rules
A 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants
People from other households cannot meet at home, unless they are in their extended household. These rules also apply to children
Children whose parents do not live in the same household can move between homes, as can non-cohabiting couples
Limited exemptions apply for childcare, and for tradespeople
A maximum of six people from two households can meet in outdoor spaces
People should limit as far as possible the total number of households they meet in a day
Under-12s do not count towards the maximum number of households or number of people who can meet outdoors. Under-12s do not have to physically distance
A maximum of six 12 to 17 year olds can meet in outdoor spaces, with no household limit. Physical distancing is still required
Indoor public spaces
A maximum of six people from two households can meet in public indoor spaces such as cafes, pubs and restaurants, subject to physical distancing rules.
Children under 12 from those two households do not count towards the limits