Government announces new Plan B rules to combat Omicron variant – How will this affect SMEs?

Face masks will become compulsory in most public indoor venues

Government announces new Plan B rules to combat Omicron variant - How will this affect SMEs?

Face masks will become compulsory in most public indoor venues 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a new set of restrictions amid a surge in cases of the new Omicron variant. There will be new regulations including working from home, mask-wearing, proof of vaccination or Covid status at venues. How will these new measures affect SMEs? 

Under the Prime Minister’s new ‘Plan B’ protocol, England will shift into more stringent rules to curb the spread of the new Covid-19 variant. Now, employees are urged to work from home. According to data by the Office for National Statistics, many companies have gotten used to operating from home. Around a third of working adults in Great Britain are still working from home and just half travel to work every day. 

However, other industries could face a more severe impact over the new rules. The hospitality industry has been badly hit by previous lockdowns ‘ and Plan B could spell disaster for thousands of struggling businesses. Nightclubs and venues have already seen a drop in attendance due to Covid passports, The Night Time Industries Association said. Eddie Young, Director at MisterEY Entertainment said: “The nightmares are returning. I am starting to get cancellations already. This will likely be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses.” 

Office workers staying at home would mean fewer customers for shops that cater to them, such as restaurants, bakeries and dry cleaners. Announcements of the new Omicron variant mean people will restrict their behaviour over fears to expose themselves to the strain ‘ and there are signs people are going out less. According to Pantheon Macroeconomics, there are significant drops in the number of people booking tables in restaurants, going to the cinema, going shopping or searching for information about pubs, gyms and hairdressers on Google since the news about Omicron emerged.  

Many companies have also cancelled their annual Christmas parties and events, according to reports. This will leave many businesses who rely on this festive period for a large portion of their yearly income. Denise Yeats, Director at Denise Yeats Creative Event Production: “To say that my heart has sunk is an understatement. As an events specialist, my business was only just struggling to get back on its feet. I fear these new guidelines will only enhance the uncertainty of my clients to hold events. I really don’t know how much longer my business can survive… 

Businesses and trade unions are urging the government to bring back the furlough scheme, which has helped protect millions of jobs in the hospitality industry. The government has yet to announce a new economic support package. Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, said: Small businesses are still in recovery mode. Almost half say they’re still recovering financially from the worst of the pandemic. The work from home instructions will undoubtedly harm independent traders in city and town centres ‘ particularly those in the hospitality industry who were already reporting mass cancellations. 

He added: We know one in five small businesses won’t survive 2022 without a bumper Christmas period. In light of the latest government guidance, it’s crucial that small businesses are given the support that they need and deserve. They’re quite simply the lifeblood of our local communities and together they contribute trillions of pounds a year in turnover to our economy. 

It is still unclear how long the latest measures will last, and whether restrictions will tighten in the oncoming weeks. The Omicron variant is spreading quickly, but it is not clear whether deaths will increase and if vaccines offer sufficient protection against the strain.

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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