Responding to news that Plan B will not be tightened, Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the BCC, said:

“Businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that there are to be no further covid restrictions to add to their mounting difficulties.

“Many already have their backs to the wall as they juggle with soaring inflation, rising interest rates, depleted cash reserves and fresh tax demands.

“For some sectors, such as the night-time economy, which has been effectively shut or under restrictions for the best part of the last two years, Omicron could well be the final death knell.

“Government must be open to continuing to provide support to those in the greatest difficulty so they can ride out this fresh storm and be ready to contribute to the UK’s recovery.

“An essential component of that is the speed at which firms can access the grant funding announced before Christmas. It is vital this money is distributed as quickly as possible to those in critical need.

“Urgent action is also needed to address issues with the supply of lateral flow tests to make sure the workforce is not isolating unnecessarily. Too many businesses are telling us that their staff cannot get access.

“We have been told of absence rates of more than 25% at some firms this week, which is having a huge impact on their operations. Many are worried this is going to critically impact on supply chains and put pressure on cash flow at a time when economic conditions were already difficult.

“This lack of testing capacity is also adversely affecting the confidence of consumers who want to be assured that they are covid-free before they go out and meet friends in hospitality and leisure premises.

“The Government must do all it can to address issues around isolation and fully assess the scientific data to make sure it is kept to a safe minimum without adversely affecting infection rates.”