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East Midlands Chamber News

Businesses will have mixed feelings about Covid-19 winter plan, says East Midlands Chamber

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Winter Plan announcement, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Businesses will welcome communication from the Government about its plan for what we all understand may be a bumpy few months ahead, and the determination not to bring back full lockdowns will offer much-needed confidence.

“This in turn enables them to invest in growth and creating new jobs – something that’s clearly still important as the latest unemployment rate of 4.4% remains above pre-pandemic levels.

“Businesses are fully in tune with the need to do their bit when it comes to protecting public health, and many continue to encourage customers and staff to wear face coverings where appropriate.

“However, some of the contingency measures within the Plan B packaging, including vaccine passports and encouraging people to work from home, will bring some concern for companies.

“Vaccine passports in particular could result in costly overheads and potentially deter customers at a time when they need to be welcomed back enthusiastically.

“While many organisations are gradually reopening their workplaces and seeking to establish a hybrid of physical and remote working, a change in messaging once again would deal a significant blow to their efforts to encourage employees to see the benefits of working alongside colleagues in offices.

“The consequences of this would be felt far and wide, with home working having a detrimental impact on the town and city centre-based businesses that serve office-based employees and public transport usage still struggling to reach pre-pandemic levels.

“Businesses must be given ample preparation time for the reintroduction of any measures so they can plan accordingly, while the Government may also need to provide financial support in some cases, such as by extending furlough, grant funding and deferring VAT payments further.

“We appreciate the Government must have a Plan B in place and will be reluctant to use these measures, but we also hope it is mindful of the huge disappointment felt by businesses last year, when Tier 3 restrictions in the East Midlands meant Christmas was effectively cancelled for so many, and it is vital to have a fully open and functioning economy this year.”