Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the Government to come forward with an immediate package of support for the culture, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors.
Khan has declared a ‘major incident’ due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the capital.
And in a letter to the PM, the London Covid Business Forum – chaired by Khan – he said that due to Londoners, commuters and visitors to London taking extra precautions, businesses in London in the retail, hospitality, and cultural sectors are already suffering.
The letter read: “A 25 per cent surge in Christmas bookings being cancelled has already been reported, there has been a 26 per cent drop in TfL usage week on week, and central London has seen a significant drop in footfall across the city.
“UK Hospitality has forecast that takings will be down by as much as 40 per cent for December, usually the most lucrative month for venues.
“Retail, hospitality, leisure, cultural businesses and night time venues were banking on pre-Christmas sales after an extremely challenging and volatile 20 months.
“We currently face a ‘worst of all worlds’ whereby businesses are being very adversely affected; but without the benefit of support that existed during the previous total and partial lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.”
The London Covid Business Forum was set up by Khan to tackle the key issues facing business as a result of the pandemic and set out a roadmap for the safe and full reopening of London’s economy.
It is made up of leading figures from the capital’s key business groups, including UKHospitality, London First, the Association of International Retail and the Night Time Industries Association.
Among a long list of recommendations, the London Covid Business Forum is lobbying for full business relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to be reintroduced until March 2022, and an extension of VAT relief for hospitality, accommodation and certain attractions beyond that date.
Speaking more widely about the Omicron variant outbreak in the capital, Khan said: “The surge in cases of the Omicron variant across our capital is hugely concerning, so we are once again declaring a major incident because of the threat of COVID-19 to our city.
“The Omicron variant has quickly become dominant with cases increasing rapidly and the number of patients in our hospitals with COVID-19 on the rise again. We are already feeling the impact across the capital and while we are still learning about this variant, it’s right that London’s key agencies work closely together to minimise the impact on our city, including helping to protect the vital vaccination programme.
“We know that the vaccine offer our best defence against the virus. There are now more clinics in London delivering vaccines than at any point during the pandemic. I urge all Londoners to book their appointment or to go to one of the many walk-in centres across the capital as soon as you can.”