‘Second national lockdown marks the start of a bleak midwinter’ – leaders react to latest measures to tackle Covid-19

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors.

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors.

Boris Johnson has ordered a second national lockdown which will run from Thursday November 5 to Wednesday, December 2.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops and places will be closed and people are expected to stay home as much as possible.

The news is a hammer blow to business owners in the sectors affected and the wider economy but a necessary measure according to the government and its scientific advisors.

The furlough scheme will be extended to cover this period of lockdown.

Business Leaders and representatives have been reacting to the news.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, comments: “Lockdown is a decision for government, not business, and firms share the Prime Minister’s ambition to defeat the virus, But for many businesses, a second national lockdown marks the start of a bleak midwinter.

“With the right support firms will do everything possible to minimise the damage. Across the country they have already shown how resilient they can be in the face of tighter restrictions. And thanks to huge efforts by businesses to make workplaces Covid secure, more of the economy can now stay open.

“Extending furlough is a vital step. It will bring instant relief and protect jobs. It’s also a breakthrough to hear government support for rapid mass testing. Affordable fast tests are a game-changer for business, enabling more firms to stay open and operate normally. We must use this lockdown month to prepare and roll-out mass testing as a matter of national urgency.”

Business West Managing Director Phil Smith comments: “The facts are clear – something different is required if this virus isn’t going to overrun the country. The impact of a month’s restrictions on businesses will ripple throughout the economy and will be shattering for those forced to close.

“Many companies have worked hard to make their workplaces and services COVID-safe. So, as necessary as this seems to be, it will be a bitter disappointment to all and ruinous for some.

“The furlough extension is welcomed and the Chamber network has been pressing for this. However, business costs are not just limited to employees’ wages. Rents, rates, taxes and leases etc. all keep coming – even if your sales are down or worse still stopped altogether and we are looking for the Chancellor to provide additional financial support to businesses.

“The 2nd December lockdown exit date is clear, but it’s obvious that the Government will need to extend the lockdown if these new restrictions do not work.”

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors, comments: “Controlling the virus is crucial for the economy in the long run. But make no mistake, these measures will put great strain on an already fragile business community.

“The decision to reinstate furlough is absolutely the right one, and the announcement should bring relief to many businesses. Directors will be eager for clarity on the employer contributions, as we are now returning to circumstances much like the start of the summer.

“With the return of restrictions, gaps in government support need sorted at long last. Small company directors who have gone without support throughout the crisis should be helped through local authority grants.

“It’s also now clear that the Government made a mistake ending its suspension of wrongful trading rules. This gave directors much needed breathing space to protect businesses and jobs during the summer. To help to prevent a flood of insolvencies, it must be reinstated straight away.

“When we emerge from these restrictions, directors will want to see the Test and Trace system firing on all cylinders. This could be a key weapon in the fight against the virus, but it hasn’t hit its target yet. The Prime Minister’s emphasis on this is welcome, but the results on the ground will matter most.”

In a recent article for Business Leader Matt Gubba, founder of BizBritain said that continued restrictions are having an overwhelmingly negative impact of businesses. The article is here