Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new one-month nationwide lockdown in England, which will result in the closure of all non-essential businesses, including restaurants and pubs, starting at midnight on Thursday 5 November.
As was the case during the national lockout in March, restaurants offering delivery or take-out by collection will be able to remain open. Restrictions on business are expected to be in place until Wednesday, December 2, initially. Unlike March, schools and universities will not be closing. It will replace the current three-tier regional restriction strategy, which has been in place since mid-October.
The news, so-called ‘level 4 coronavirus restrictions’ is introduced on the recommendation of the government’s science advisory board, SAGE, after predicting the UK is heading for a significantly higher death toll than in the first wave , with projections exceeding what had been identified as “the reasonable worst case scenario”.
In order to prevent such an eventuality, SAGE recommended that the government introduce a national two- or three-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockout at the end of September – a strategy implemented to a greater or lesser extent in Northern Ireland, in Wales and which was supported by the opposition Labor Party in England. From next Monday, Scotland will introduce a new five-tier restriction strategy.
The economic impact of the four-week shutdown, after eight months of turmoil and a myriad of uncertainties, is significant for businesses such as the hospitality industry. The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Program (CJRS) – or leave, as is best known – was due to end today, October 31. It has seen 80% of salaries covered by the government and, although it has its shortcomings, it has helped preserve jobs in the hospitality industry since March. Johnson confirmed that a package of support commensurate with the severity of the new restrictions would mean the leave will be extended until November, through “early December”.
From tomorrow, the CJRS was due to be replaced by the new employment support program, which Chancellor Rishi Sunak revised after criticism from the hospitality industry.
Stay tuned for the reaction from the London restaurant industry on Monday.