Fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases are mounting after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a series of new lockdown measures in response to the spike in coronavirus cases, which will include a curfew on pubs and a tightening of the rule of six. Just last week, employers were given the go-ahead to return to the office – but now, the government is tightening rules following in hopes to reduce the spread of the virus. How will these affect SMEs and businesses returning to the office?
The Prime Minister told the country that we have reached a “perilous turning point” in the fight against coronavirus as he set out new restrictions to contain the spread. The new measures include a 10 pm closing time for pubs and restaurants, a renewed ban on indoor team sports and stricter rules on mask-wearing. Meanwhile, staff have now been urged to work from home just days after the government gave employees the go-ahead to return to the workplace. Mr Johnson said people should go back to working from home if they can do so effectively. However, those working in essential services should continue attending their workplace, if possible, the PM said. People working in retail, those travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality – except while seated at a table to eat or drink – would have to wear face coverings. Business events are not permitted to reopen on October 1 as previously hoped. The lockdown restrictions are likely to be in place for six months unless there is a swift decline in virus infections, the Prime Minister said. Now is the time for us all to summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through, Mr Johnson said.
Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the government’s most senior scientific and medical advisers, warned the public on Monday that the UK had turned a corner for the worse and could see 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October if harsher restrictions were not implemented. Ben Bradley, the Conservative MP for Mansfield, stressed the need for more economic support to the affected sectors but MPs could tolerate today’s measures. Number 10 is caught between a rock and a hard place here, and I know that they need to be seen to take action for a variety of reasons, Bradley said. What I’m very conscious of though is a general feeling among many of my constituents that they don’t want further restrictions.
Meanwhile, Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said the impact on local businesses will now be overwhelming and called for an urgent rethink of support available. Business leaders have urged business owners to put their employees first and support them during this difficult time. Lord Mark Price, former MD Waitrose and Founder of Engaging Business warned that employers must learn from the first lockdown and support employees as the government is now prompting people to return to working from home again. As the Government now encourage people to work from home employers must learn lessons from the first lockdown and focus on communicating with their employees and supporting them, he said. This is the time to engage with people working from home and ask what can make their working lives better.
The effects of the coronavirus lockdown could spell disaster for small businesses as the government tightens restrictions. According to a report by Simply Business, the coronavirus pandemic could cost small businesses up to £69 billion. In addition, one in five small businesses don’t think they’d survive a second lockdown ‘ and this hasn’t been ruled out by the Prime Minister just yet. Meanwhile, 234,000 small businesses have already stopped trading.
However, some businesses have taken the opportunity to make swift moves that improved their operations tremendously. 85% of small business owners intend to remain self-employed and 10% are even planning to start a new business, according to the report. In addition, one in five small businesses has adopted new technologies. The research was conducted through two separate pools of SME owners with a total of 4200 participants.
With tighter restrictions, SMEs will have to brace themselves for the changes and adhere to new measures during this difficult time. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring economic turbulence, SMEs must learn to adapt and prepare for the future ahead.