The United Kingdom announced an additional 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) in help for firms hit hardest by the Omicron variant coronavirus outbreak, which is wreaking havoc on the country’s hospitality industry and other sectors.
Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, expressed confidence that the reforms will benefit hundreds of thousands of enterprises. However, he warned that if the government imposed additional limitations to slow Omicron, he would “react proportionately and appropriately.”
Despite a 60% increase in COVID-19 cases in the last week, which has brought the total number of infections to about 90,000 per day, hospitality businesses in England are currently not subject to any additional legal limitations.
From December 26, only table service will be available in Scotland’s bars and restaurants. find out more
Hospitality and leisure firms in England would be eligible for subsidies of up to 6,000 pounds for each of their facilities under the increased support announced on Tuesday, accounting for over 700 million pounds of the new package.
According to the finance ministry, the grants were similar to those given to hospitality businesses when they were entirely shuttered this year.
However, unlike earlier in the pandemic, those who lose their employment or have their hours reduced will not receive additional government assistance. According to the British finance ministry, job vacancies are 50 percent more than they were before the outbreak.
A fund to promote cultural organisations would receive a boost of 30 million pounds, while English local authorities would receive 100 million pounds for business support measures and governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland would receive 150 million pounds.
In addition to the £1 billion, the finance ministry stated it would cover the cost of statutory sick pay for COVID-related absences for small and medium-sized businesses in the UK for up to two weeks per employee.
In the previous financial year, Britain borrowed more than 300 billion pounds to help offset the economic impact of the coronavirus and the government’s lockdowns.
When asked if more limits were likely, Sunak said the situation was too fluid to predict the route ahead.
“What the prime minister stated is that we’re going to look at the data day by day, hour by hour, and keep the situation under constant evaluation, but we can’t rule anything out,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that he is considering a variety of options to keep Omicron under control, but cautioned that additional limitations may be required. find out more
According to figures released on Monday by trade group UKHospitality, takings fell by 40% over the weekend, indicating a bleak outlook for New Year’s Eve. find out more
“This is a substantial package that builds on existing hospitality support measures to provide an immediate emergency financial infusion for those businesses that have had their most lucrative trade time devastated through no fault of their own,” said UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls.
The Resolution Foundation research tank, on the other hand, criticised the absence of assistance for hospitality employees, claiming that low-paid workers quitting their employment would lose 70% of their income, compared to a 20% reduction under furlough.
“The size of support for enterprises is only adequate for a best-case scenario of a flash wave (of Omicron), but the lack of new help for workers puts them at danger of significant income drops in the weeks ahead,” said Resolution Foundation chief economist Mike Brewer.