Extend furlough and hospitality support, says Mayor

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New coronavirus lockdown rules mean support for struggling hospitality businesses “has never been more urgent,” according to the Mayor of London.

Sadiq Khan said more cash should be made available “within days” to help hard hit pubs, bars and restaurants – and the furlough scheme should be extended.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a swathe of new Covid-19 restrictions to halt rising infections across the country. They include:

  • Pubs, bars, and restaurants will have a 10pm curfew.
  • They will have table service only.
  • Taxi drivers, waiters, bar staff and shop workers will have to wear a mask.
  • Only 15 people can attend a wedding, down from 30.
  • Plans for fans to go back to sports matches are on hold.

The ‘rule of six’ – meaning only six people from different households can meet – is still in place, and now also applies to indoor sports.

Fines for not following the rules will increase from £100 to £200 for the first offence.

Mr Khan welcomed the renewed focus on home working and tighter rules on face coverings in public places – a policy he has been backing for many weeks.

“Given the recent surge in cases and the Government’s failure to set up an adequate testing or contact tracing system we have no choice but to implement further measures to slow the spread of the virus,” he said.

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“I firmly believe that acting early, rather than having to impose more stringent measures later, is the right thing to do both for public health and the economy.”

Though he was not invited to the emergency Covid-19 Cobra meeting, the Mayor said he had a “constructive” phone call with the Prime Minister.

But he warned that at this “perilous moment in the fight against the virus” more help for the hospitality sector would be crucial.

London shops and restaurants are still struggling, particularly in the city centre, which is not currently benefitting from commuters – shopping in the West End is down two thirds on last year.

Mr Khan said residents and businesses have made “monumental sacrifices” during the pandemic.

“It is essential that the Government now come forward within days with a targeted package of financial support for the retail, hospitality and cultural sectors who will be hit hardest by further restrictions, alongside an immediate targeted extension of the furlough scheme,” he said.

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