End of Coronavirus restrictions a welcome relief to UK hospitality businesses
Plans outlined this week by UK prime minister Boris Johnson to end the legal requirement to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 come as a welcome relief for hospitality businesses across the UK.
New measures for the UK government’s ‘living with Covid’ plan will come into effect from Thursday 24 February.
From 1 April, free mass testing will also end for most people, with exceptions for the most vulnerable. The £500 isolation payment for people on low incomes forced to isolate will also end this week.
The PM’s announcement has since been celebrated by key voices in the hospitality industry.
“Moving beyond COVID restrictions marks an important milestone in the road to recovery for pubs,” said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association in response to the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO, also welcomed the news. She said: “It is heartening to hear that we are moving to trading based on the safety measures that businesses have put in place and we hope that this will ignite consumer confidence in our sector and beyond.
“The hospitality industry has proved that its venues are safe for staff and consumers and that, when allowed to trade without restrictions, it can be a major driver of economic growth and recovery. We are pleased to see that much of our five-point plan for living with Covid has been taken forward by government.”
For Nick Gillett, managing director at spirits distributor Mangrove UK, government reinforcement is a major factor in instilling consumer confidence.
He said: “Hospitality needs to be able to trade restriction free and the sooner this happens the better. The rhetoric from politicians must support the removal of restrictions as consumer confidence is key.”
Last week, UKHospitality and CGA revealed data that showed the pandemic had cost the hospitality sector £115 billion (US$156.3bn) in lost sales during the last two years.
McClarkin noted that while the PM’s announcement was one to be celebrated, “as we move to living with covid as an endemic virus it is important the pub and brewing sector receive the necessary support and guidance to ensure a strong and sustainable recovery”.
The BBPA is urging the government to reduce the “punitive tax burden” on the sector to ensure the sustainability of brewing and pubs in the UK.
UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls also warned that the rising cost of living and VAT rise due this April could cripple an already wounded sector, despite the good news.
She said: “Hospitality was hit first – longest and hardest by this pandemic, and with costs rising across the board and a VAT rise due this April – just as the cost-of-living crisis is set to bite – businesses in the sector still need support.
“At the very least, we need the government [to] commit to keeping VAT at 12.5% beyond April in order for the industry to be able to play its full role in the UK’s social and economic recovery.”
Almost half of hospitality operators also believe that there will be an ‘inevitable’ price hike for consumers in 2022 as a result of financial losses over the Christmas period, as the effects of a hard winter continue to be felt.