Business leaders warn of economic ruin because of coronavirus rules


London business leaders have attacked new coronavirus restrictions, warning the city could face “economic ruin” without more help from the Government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a swathe of national rules to curb the spread of Covid-19 in England.

Fines for breaking these restrictions doubled from £100 to £200 for a first time offence.

In the capital, hospitality businesses and office-based firms will be hardest hit by the new rules.

The city centre – traditionally the white collar heart of London, with shops, pubs and restaurants catering to workers and tourists – is already struggling to recover from the virus.

Just 15% of city centre workers are back in the office, and spending in the capital is still just half of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Centre for Cities.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have about a third of their normal evening trade – double the lockdown low, with a boost from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement, London Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Burge called for more transparency on the reasoning behind new measures.

“Many London businesses remain unclear as to why their Covid-secure workplace is now considered to be less safe,” he said.

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Equally many hospitality businesses will remain unclear what difference a 10pm closure makes, other than being detrimental to their business.”

Mr Burge said ministers must put health first but need to avoid “economic ruin” in the capital.

“If the Government is saying these economic restrictions could last six months, then they need to be prepared to support businesses suffering the consequences during that time period,” he argued.

“Business also rightly expects the Government to rectify the test and trace mess.  We don’t need a world beating system, we simply need one that works.”

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business advocacy group London First, said health “must be the priority” but ministers risk “derailing an already fragile recovery” by telling workers to stay home.

“The Government needs to move from rhetoric to delivery over test and trace, sharpen the clarity and consistency of its messaging and provide urgent support to affected businesses,” she said.

“Extending business rates relief and a targeted version of the furlough scheme would help those hardest hit in leisure, retail and hospitality.”

The Chancellor has yet to announce further measures to support business in light of new extensions.

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