Businesses in England are set to grapple with yet more uncertainty, as a new tiered regional lockdown system looms.
The new restrictions which will come into force when England’s second lockdown ends on 2 December, were announced late last night.
The tougher restrictions will mean more areas face severe constraints in order to prevent COVID-19 spreading further before the crucial Christmas period.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously hinted at such a move, saying on BBC Radio 4 at the beginning of November: “Our hope and expectation is, on the basis of everything we know today, that these measures will be sufficient to bring the R rate to where we need it to be. And, therefore, we can exit back into the tiered approach.”
A second wave of UK coronavirus infections has begun to flatten, according to official statistics, but scientific advisers are expected to warn on Monday that the government’s previous tiered system did not go far enough. It is thought that harder measures will be needed to prevent another national lockdown.
A government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister and his scientific advisors are clear the virus is still present - and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect.”
The prime minister’s office last night said it would set out a new winter plan on Monday, with more areas placed into higher restrictions according to the tiered system.
Although the furlough scheme has been extended to the end of March, this is likely to put renewed pressure on businesses as they work out how to navigate the new terrain in the run up to Christmas.
There has been much speculation as to what will be allowed when the Christmas period arrives, as health services brace for a boom in cases.
The organisation of which area will go in which tier is due to be announced on Thursday, with ministers voting on the system before it goes into force.
These moves are also likely to cause rifts in parliament, with some arguing the country cannot afford to close shops and hospitality again as unemployment numbers and debt soars.
The government is concerned the virus will overwhelm the NHS and cripple the economy in the long-term if measures aren’t taken. The Labour Party has said new support measures must be introduced for any business having to close.
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