Industry leaders have reacted with dismay after the government announced ‘Plan B’ restrictions for England in the face of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Yesterday (8 December) prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed the move to Plan B measures while additional data on vaccine efficacy and disease severity is assessed.
From Friday 10 December, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship – with exemptions for hospitality, and for exercising.
Those who can are advised to work from home from Monday 13 December.
And from Wednesday 15 December (subject to parliamentary approval), the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App “will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather”. This encompasses unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and “any event with 10,000 or more attendees”.
Charles Jarrold, CEO, BPIF
“It’s going to have another dampening effect on demand for the sector, which to a large extent has recovered quite well but there are still significant challenges – around supply chain, around cost pressures, around cross-border transactions and labour. It just piles the pressure on. We are in a world where it seems likely there will be a perpetual cycle of new variants and booster shots. We need to make sure we find ways to live in that world and support businesses through any public health steps we take. The government are very keenly aware of the intense pressure on the sector – they are aware and they are concerned. It does refocus the conversations on the need to continue to support businesses emerging from the pandemic.”
Rob Cross, director, Micropress in Suffolk
“We are busy at the moment with good loading but I am fearful that these new restrictions will have a negative impact on the economy and therefore the print industry.
“It’s not good. Whilst protecting the NHS is of the upmost importance we are very much of the opinion that we need to find a way to live alongside the virus. Whilst we support the wearing of masks, moving backwards and introducing further restrictions is not the answer.”
Paul Manning, managing director at London-based Rapidity
Manning posted on LinkedIn and described the mandate as “uneven, illogical, and unfair”.
“The working from home advice really hurts businesses like ours. I appreciate it doesn’t hurt all businesses but there are many of us that this causes major disruption and loss of business to.
“Events will be cancelled, the working districts of London will get quieter again, big businesses and government will delay the return to work and so on. All for an unknown amount of time. Could it be weeks? Could it be months? And there’s no furlough this time, no grants, no loans, nothing. No help from a government making rules with negative outcomes.”
Federation of Small Business national chair Mike Cherry
“New measures aimed at limiting the spread of Covid during the crucial festive period will impact small businesses already beset by supply chain disruption, inflation and shortages.
“We urgently need clarity around Plan B. Equally, the Government should explain what conditions would move us back to Plan A, whilst also outlining what Plan C would involve and the support measures that will be launched should more stringent restrictions take effect. Plans to control the virus need to be matched by plans to protect the economy and livelihoods.”
B. Perring, general manager IPIA
“The Government and its advisors, both scientific and economic, are between a rock and a hard place, trying to balance protecting lives through reducing the spread of Covid-19 and its new variant Omicron on one hand, while at the same time protecting livelihoods and the economy on the other.
“The new restrictions that have been announced we feel are a move to address this balance and seeks to reduce transmission, while limiting damage to businesses. That said, it is clear that the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors will once again be more adversely affected by the restrictions and this will no doubt have a knock on effect for the print industry through a loss of confidence, reduction in overall spend on print and the cancellation of print generating activities.
“We will be meeting with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Friday to discuss our concerns and the impact on our sector this new round of restrictions will have and seeking to understand what mitigation measures can be put back in place to reduce the damage to the print economy.”