Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new month-long national lockdown in England, which will mean 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 lockdown in March, restaurants offering delivery or takeaway by collection will be able to remain open. The restrictions on business are expected to be in place until Wednesday 2 December, initially. Unlike in March, schools and universities will not close. It will replace the current three-tier, regional restriction strategy, which has been in place since mid-October.
The new coronavirus restrictions are being introduced on the recommendation of the government’s scientific advisory board, SAGE, after it was predicted the U.K. was heading towards a significantly higher death toll than during the first wave, with projections exceeding what had been identified as the “reasonable worse-case scenario.”
In order to pre-empt such an eventuality, SAGE recommended that the government introduce a two- or three-week national “circuit-breaker” lockdown in late September — a strategy implemented to a greater or lesser extent in Northern Ireland, Wales, and which was supported by the opposition Labour party in England. From next Monday, Scotland will introduce a new five-tier restriction strategy.
The economic impact of the four-week closure, after eight months of turmoil and myriad uncertainty, is significant for businesses like those in hospitality. The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) — or furlough, as it is better known — was due to end today, 31 October. It saw 80 percent of wages covered by the government and while it had its shortcomings, it’s helped to preserve jobs across the hospitality industry since March. Johnson confirmed that a package of support commensurate with the severity of new restrictions would mean that furlough will be extended through November, until the “beginning of December.”
From tomorrow, the CJRS was scheduled to be replaced by the new Job Support Scheme, which chancellor Rishi Sunak revised after criticism from the hospitality industry.
Stay tuned for reaction from the London restaurant industry on Monday.