Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement today (June 14) on whether to implement step four of the roadmap out of lockdown, when Aal rules on social contact were planned to end on June 21, however, with increasing cases of the Delta coronavirus variant, the government is expected to adopt a more cautious approach.
The announcement is expected at 5pm, however there are reports that that the easing is to be delayed by several weeks. According to the BBC, senior ministers have already signed off on the decision to delay the lifting of lockdown., with a new “Freedom Day “of July 19.
Speaking to Sky News the PM said it was “clear” the Delta variant was “more transmissible” and driving the increase in the number of people in hospital in the UK. “Now we don’t know to what extent that exactly is going to feed through into extra mortality but, clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern,” he said.
Adding that he “admitted he was “less optimistic” now than he was at the end of May.
Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC he could not confirm the delay ahead of the official announcement, but that there was a “concerning increase” in cases of the Delta variant and numbers in hospital were “beginning to creep up”.
UKHospitality warned today that the government must stick to its roadmap or risk further jeopardising the future of thousands of hospitality businesses and the jobs they provide. The trade association said any delay would be devastating for the sector and around 300,000 jobs would be put at risk, including those still on furlough.
Hospitality has lost more than £87b in sales due to the pandemic, leaving businesses deeply in debt. Even with partial reopening sales remain down 42%.
A one-month delay to restrictions lifting would cost the sector an estimated £3b in sales but would also have a knock-on impact on forward bookings for the rest of the summer t the summer and into the autumn.
Alongside the impact on sales revenue, businesses are now facing a return to paying full operational costs, with business rates payments set to recommence, and end to the rent moratorium and employer contributions to furlough kicking in.
Sacha Lord, night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester, has also called for urgent clarity on the financial assistance that will be offered if the reopening is delayed.
Nine in 10 nightlife operators have said any delay to the final stage of reopening could threaten the survival of their business and many had already invested financially in 21 June as a reopening date.
Lord said: “If this leak is confirmed by the prime minister on Monday, it’s imperative we’re given immediate clarity on the ongoing financial support to be offered during the period of delay. We know nine in 10 venues have already made commitments reliant on the 21 June date, whether that’s taking staff off furlough or ordering in stock, and these owners will now be under severe pressure.
“In addition to delaying the furlough repayments and rent moratoriums, I am looking to the chancellor to commit to a long-term extension of the 5% VAT reduction for the night-time sector, extending the rate to include alcohol rather than just food, and allowing all hospitality venues equal footing to survive. There are over 1,800 wet-led pubs in Greater Manchester alone, most of these in deprived areas, who are not only struggling with capacity restrictions but who have been unable to benefit at all from the current VAT reductions.”
He added: “If the data shows we must delay to reduce infection transmissions, we must have a proper plan in place to give businesses the best possible chance to survive.”