Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has welcomed the Government’s roadmap to the gradual easing of restrictions but has stressed “this must be the final lockdown”.
Following the announcement that some businesses can begin to reopen from April 12, the Mayor said “the health of individuals and the health of our businesses is intertwined” and pushed for certainty over the extension of the furlough scheme and business rates holiday.
Mr Khan said: “The Government’s focus on fully reopening schools safely and then allowing people to meet outside is the right one, but there is still more they must do to ensure this roadmap is a success.
“Parents, teachers, support staff and employers still need more clarity and support on the roll out of widespread testing. Statutory sick pay and eligibility for self-isolation payments must be increased as a matter of urgency.
“It is also deeply frustrating that the Prime Minister outlined a roadmap, but didn’t give businesses the certainty they desperately need that the business rates holiday, VAT relief and furlough scheme will be extended. It’s disgraceful that the three million people excluded from any financial support continue to be ignored.”
He added: “This must be the final lockdown that Londoners and people across the UK have to endure. We simply cannot risk completely lifting restrictions too early, leading to a surge in cases and further mutations in the virus which would put the whole roadmap and our economic recovery at risk.”
Under the plans announced, businesses such as shops, hairdressers and gyms can reopen from April 12 provided the vaccination programme continues to be successful, infections do not spike, and new variants do not increase the risk of keeping these businesses open.
Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also welcomed the roadmap but called for further support for businesses until they can reopen safely.
Mr Burge said: “Businesses will welcome the clarity provided by the Prime Minister and now have respective dates for which to plan.
“Whilst I’m sure some businesses will be frustrated they cannot yet open or fully function, the past has proven that caution is required, and if this approach protects the vaccination programme and brings an end to this crisis then no one should argue with the process.
“The key now is for the Government to continue to support businesses so that they can survive and be the bedrock of our recovery. It’s clear that footfall, commuting, business travel, domestic and international tourism will stay supressed for some months to come. Across the country, but in London particularly, this will bring detrimental economic impact. So we need to urgently hear what support the Government will continue to provide and over what time period.”
In a boost to businesses, all remaining social distancing measures could be lifted as soon as June 21 if the key conditions around vaccinations and infection numbers continue to be met.