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Letter to Prime Minister

Covid measures ‘must meet five tests to avoid paralysis’

Liz McAreavey

Liz McAreavey is among the signatories (pic: Terry Murden)

Business leaders across the UK are demanding any Covid restrictions must first meet five tests to ensure the pandemic does not paralyse the economy.

Chambers of Commerce representing 75,000 firms have written to Boris Johnson warning that these tests must be met – to avoid serious damage to business and consumer confidence, and potentially catastrophic economic consequences. 

The letter to the Prime Minister states: “Our starting point is clear: no amount of financial support can compensate for an open, fully-functioning economy.

“Yet with increasing, tiered restrictions – and with more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions under consideration or underway – the situation for business grows graver by the day.

Adam Marshall

Adam Marshall: We must preserve our economy (pic: Terry Murden)

“While the recent announcement of an enhanced Job Support Scheme will assist some firms, Chamber members tell us it will not be enough to stave off mass redundancies and business failures.” 

“We must preserve our economy in the immediacy, while also laying the foundations of future growth. Failure to do so will undermine any broader efforts to ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK.”

Signatories to the letter include the British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall and the chief executives of local chambers including Russell Borthwick (Aberdeen and Grampian), Liz McAreavey (Edinburgh), Stuart Patrick (Glasgow) and Alan Mitchell (Fife).

The letter has been sent after a week of increasing, regionally tiered restrictions, with more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions under consideration, as the country battles a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr Marshall, BCC president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith and the Chamber chief executives challenge the Prime Minister to meet five business tests for current and prospective Coronavirus restrictions:

  1. Are the restrictions evidence-based and targeted effectively? 
  2. Are the restrictions clear and do businesses have time to prepare?  
  3. Is support for businesses commensurate with the impact on them?  
  4. Will the time that the restrictions are in place be used to significantly improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system?  
  5. Is there a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions?  

There is also a clear warning that improving the government’s ailing test and trace system [test and protect in Scotland] is the only way to get a grip on the virus over the long term and prevent economic paralysis.

The letter reads: “The need for additional restrictions cannot be blamed on a lack of care by hardworking people in businesses across the country.

“Instead it represents a failure of the Test and Trace system, which must be urgently improved and expanded.”

It concludes: “The Coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. The government must waste no more time in setting out a clear strategy to keep the economy functioning, while protecting public health over the long term.”

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