Christmas given the green light, but businesses worry Covid grants 'won't touch surface' of earnings lost

A man passes the window of an empty restaurant in central LondonA man passes the window of an empty restaurant in central London
A man passes the window of an empty restaurant in central London
Boris Johnson gave Christmas the green light last night as he confirmed that no new coronavirus measures will be brought in before December 25.

There will be no more restrictions on socialising or hospitality before the festive weekend, however, businesses fear that new support from the Treasury will not “touch the surface” of earnings lost in December as people stay home to avoid coronavirus infection ahead of Christmas.

Although he warned that new measures cannot be ruled out completely in the coming days and weeks, Mr Johnson said “continuing uncertainty” about the severity of the Omicron variant and hospital admission rates means he does not believe there is enough evidence at the moment to justify stricter rules.

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In a statement posted on Twitter last night, the Prime Minister explained: “The situation remains extremely difficult but I also recognise that people have been waiting to hear whether their Christmas plans are going to be affected.

“So what I can say tonight is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.”

He added: “We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.”

The news comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £1billion package to compensate businesses for lost trade over what is usually their busiest time of year.

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Among the measures is a new grant that will see premises allowed to claim up to £6,000 each.

One Yorkshire businesswoman has welcomed the recognition that firms are struggling, but has suggested that it may not yet be enough given the raft of recent cancellations,

Charlene Lyons, who runs the Black Sheep Brewery in North Yorkshire, told The Yorkshire Post: “We’re really grateful that the Chancellor has recognised the strain on our sector, the strain that Omicron is bringing, or has brought.

“I think the grants for pubs and restaurants, the £6,000 that’s every welcomed but clearly won’t touch the surface in terms of what was actually lost in each outlet because of reduced Christmas trade.

“But, we’re grateful nonetheless.”

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Omicron: £1billion package of support announced for businesses impacted by new C...

£6,000, she says, could represent just one day’s trade during this peak season,

Hospitality firms are not the only ones feeling the pinch.

Theatres and other entertainment venues are having to cancel shows as a result of Covid cases in the cast or crew.

Leeds Playhouse are among those to have announced postponements, with performances their Christmas production of Wendy and Peter Pan now suspended until the New Year.

A £30million boost to the Cultural Recovery Fund was among the measures in the Treasury announcement yesterday.