Hospitality and entertainment businesses in the capital and across England are urging the government to make a clear decision about Covid restrictions as the spread of the Omicron variant prompts a slew of cancelled seasonal bookings and events.
Reports following a cabinet meeting yesterday suggest Boris Johnson will decide against tightening the rules before Christmas, with ministers, including chancellor Rishi Sunak, reluctant on economic grounds and many Conservative backbench MPs having rebelled last week against the return of compulsory face covering and other curbs.
However, the Prime Minister has not ruled out imposing extra public health safety measures as recommended by his scientific advisers, leaving businesses and potential customers in a state of limbo with the festive season underway.
Sadiq Khan has added his weight to calls for a decision, saying time is running out for sectors vital to London’s and national economy to know how to approach the coming days, and demanded government financial support to save jobs.
On Sunday he said “there must, must be a major package of financial support for our hospitality, culture and retail. December is the crucial month for them.” Last week he wrote to the Prime Minister setting out the concerns and of London businesses in a letter co-signed by London First chief executive John Dickie, theatre industry chief Julian Bird and others.
Khan also said more new restrictions were “inevitable” in the face of case numbers in London doubling over the previous two days being higher than they were at tis time last year, although there were fewer people in hospital as a result of the virus, including on ventilators.
The Mayor has declared a “major incident” in the capital as a result of Omicron’s proliferation, an official response to a situation where emergency and other public services may not be able to cope and special arrangements have to be made.
He said on Sunday that the capital’s NHS, fire service, police and local authorities were “seeing record numbers of staff absent. The worry is our ability to look after people who are either unwell or need public services.” He added: “The health of individuals is linked to the health of our economy.”
Khan also revealed that he was not invited to a meeting of Cobra, the government committee convened to handle national emergencies or major disruption. “We’re hoping that he [Johnson] understands the scale of the challenges our city is facing,” he said.
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