Forecasters have warned that the UK’s Covid-hit economy will suffer losses of £55m a day if Boris Johnson confirms that “Freedom Day” is to be delayed by four weeks.
Government sources have told the BBC that “most coronavirus rules will remain in place” in England for another four weeks after the planned 21 June unlocking, amid rising cases of the Delta variant.
A delay to Freedom Day will see “billions” wiped off the economy, The Daily Telegraph reports. The “beleaguered” hospitality sector will “suffer the lion’s share” of the £1.6bn hit if capacity limits on pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas remain in place.
“The government needs to acknowledge that most of the economic pain will once again be borne by those businesses that have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic so far – pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and many other businesses in the hospitality and cultural sectors are desperate to reopen,” said Kay Neufield, head of forecasting at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). “The longer restrictions are required, the higher the risk of an insolvency wave later in the year.”
Douglas McWilliams, of the CEBR, said the planned delay was “a kick in the teeth” for sectors such as hospitality. While Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said it would be “devastating for business confidence, people’s livelihoods and wellbeing”, the Daily Mail reports.
“Delaying 21 June will send a clear message to employers and workers that when Covid cases increase this (and every) autumn and winter, they cannot rely on the government to keep our society open,” Harper tweeted. “It would be catastrophic for many businesses currently on life support.”