UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the United Kingdom will move to Plan B following the spread of Omicron in the country.
Some of the new measures include mandatory NHS Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and settings with large crowds, and the compulsory wearing of face masks in most indoor venues such a cinemas and theatres.
Businesses which fail to check for vaccine passports can face fines up to £10,000 under the new Plan B regulations, according to the government website.
Exemptions to wearing face masks include hospitality settings when customers are eating and drinking. Despite this, many establishments are reporting high levels of cancellations and it is predicted that the industry will lose £0.9 billion in revenue and £0.4 billion in inbound travel spending this month.
Tom Ross, group operations director, The PIG Hotels, said: “My response to the government announcement? Which announcement? All we have are mishmash of leaks and half commitments that change a week later. Take enforced isolations regardless of vaccination status – that’s been reversed already or maybe travel restrictions, word is that they are changing. It feels like we are part of some macabre experiment designed by behavioural scientists, puppeted through a government to ascertain how rapidly they can break down a society.
“The impact this has on a business is the uncertainty. As an industry we genuinely do not know if we will be closed in two weeks time and may have to lay people off or witness the end of a business. I’m not sure anyone in the corridors of Westminster has any idea of the reality of the decisions that they make– they say they do but unless you live it, you cannot know it. My gut feeling is that people who are vaccinated want to go about their normal life and this is what will keep businesses alive – if freedoms are restricted or scare tactics used, businesses will crumble. The support that is needed from the government is they must learn to trust the vaccines and let us get on with our lives as before. I recognise that science leads the argument in this and who am I to challenge the leading minds but at some point someone brave needs to be prepared to take a more balanced view. Closing down society and furlough is not the answer for the good of anyone. “
Writing on LinkedIn, Chris Penn, co-founder of Birch and Steel Hotels, said: “To all my friends and colleagues in hospitality, my heart is with you during continued challenging times. If, like us, you have seen a dramatic impact to your business as a result of the furore and scaremongering of the media over the past week or so my suggestion is that we commit as individuals to do something about it. I’m not suggesting political activism, just that we come together and support each other.
“Personally, I’m not going to leave hospitality businesses to wither away over the next few weeks. I’m going to take two specific actions: 1) I’m going to make it my priority to book and enjoy multiple hospitality experiences on my days off, visit restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels over the next few weeks. 2) I’m going to offer anyone that works in hospitality who finds themselves in the same predicament a code to enjoy Birch at an industry rate over the next few weeks. Support the industry, support each other – it’s the least we can do and if we don’t, many beautiful experiences may well be lost by spring.”
Central London Alliance said: “It is critical for the government to reintroduce support assisting central London’s affected businesses such as those in the hospitality and retail sectors who are reliant on a mobile population and footfall to survive these latest set of restrictions and in turn continue to make a positive contribution to the UK economy. We must not underestimate the capital’s economic firepower and its importance to assist in the rescue of regional economies and assisting in the levelling up agenda.
“We urge the government to provide full business rates relief and grants, extend VAT reductions and reform the business rates system; anything less will be devastating. A failure to act now risks the future of the capital and its vital contribution to the UK economy, its global status and imperils thousands of businesses providing jobs and opportunities across the country.”
Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group which owns 12 bars, restaurants and clubs across London, wrote on Twitter: “In light of the hugely damaging timing of Plan B, it’s essential VAT remains at 12.5 per cent for food AND extends to alcohol in hospitality settings well beyond March, and the £110k cap on rates relief is extend to allow a years 50 per cent discount on all rates payable.”
Also writing on Twitter, Chris Soley, chief executive of Camerons Brewery, said: “Cancellations are coming in thick and fast. This is like early March 2020 when people were told not to go to the pub but we had no support. Urgent government grants, rates, furlough, extended VAT and rates support is needed. Our sector needed Christmas to try and recover.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, said: “While the government clearly acknowledges that hospitality is safe and can continue to host celebrations in the lead up to Christmas, the measures announced today will significantly impact consumer confidence and be particularly devastating to city and town centre venues. As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year. We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the government to stand behind our industry. That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.”