East Midlands Chamber calls for earlier opening of businesses if vaccination programme allows

By Graham Hill

22nd Feb 2021 | Local News

The East Midlands Business Chamber has called for a speeding up of the re-opening of the economy - if the Covid vaccination programme works faster than expected.

But it also says that if there must be support in place for businesses until they can be fully operational again.

Responding to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement today (22 February) in which he unveiled a "roadmap" to ending lockdown, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: "We welcome the Government's roadmap to ending lockdown, which finally offers businesses and communities some clarity after almost a year of hardship.

"Given that the East Midlands was arguably affected by local lockdowns more than any other region

Leicester has been under the harshest restrictions throughout this pandemic, while Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were embroiled in huge uncertainty at the back end of last year – all businesses will welcome that there will be no return to the deeply-flawed tiering system.

"The principle of caution in how we exit lockdown is understandable given the events of summer 2020 and need to meet the Prime Minister's promise for this move to be 'irreversible'.

"At the same time, however, if the Government says it will slow down the easing of restrictions should the public health picture not progress sufficiently according to its four tests, then it must also be prepared to accelerate the economy's reopening if the vaccine rollout has a speedier impact than expected.

"Until we reach this point, businesses in industries such as hospitality, events, tourism and aviation that continue to be affected by restrictions must be given the necessary support if they are to still be here when we get to the other side of the pandemic.

"This means the Government must be ready to provide financial help, at pace, in the form of grants for some months to come and remove the cliff edges for business rate reliefs, VAT deferrals and furlough – which must be extended.

"We also can't underestimate the impact this period has had on the mental health of employees, parents, children and business owners, so transparent communication throughout the easing of lockdown will be vital in lifting morale.

"It's to be hoped this announcement marks the end of the slapdash approach to reopening and closing the economy, giving us all a clear sense of direction for the months ahead.

"We're not out of this yet but finally we can begin to see some light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel."


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