Reacting to the Prime Minister’s statement today, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:
“This is a much-needed step on the road to normality and we welcome the Prime Minister setting out the direction of travel in advance of reopening.
“But businesses in England still do not have the full picture they desperately need to plan for unlocking.
“Much remains in the balance, firms do not yet know the future of self-isolation rules, if testing will remain free for them, or when international travel will open up effectively.
“Without clear guidance for businesses around the new proposals, there could be real uncertainty on how they should operate going forward and what they should be doing to keep staff and their customers safe.
“This could lead to a fractured, patchwork approach with very different positions being taken by many businesses, across many locations. That, in turn, could severely undermine the public’s trust in reopening.
“All of this means the huge logistical headache firms face around reopening hasn’t disappeared and there remains a real risk of damage to business confidence”.
On contingency plans for the future, Haviland added:
“The Prime Minister has said he does not want to take any backward steps as we emerge from the pandemic and firms welcome this. But our research shows that almost two in five businesses cite concerns about possible future lockdowns as a barrier to restarting or returning to pre-pandemic levels. This rises to 50% for business-to-consumer facing firms such as hospitality and retail.
“We know sectors such as hospitality, catering and events have been particularly badly hit. To give firms the confidence to fully reopen the Government must set out contingency plans for any future virus response, the circumstances under which they would be used, and the support it would provide businesses impacted.”