Boris Johnson has announced a four-stage roadmap out of Lockdown, with a plan to ease restrictions over four separate stages.
Mr Johnson laid out his plans in a statement to the Commons when he confirmed earlier reports that schools are set to reopen on March 8, with non-essential retail, pubs and tourism facilities to reopen during the second stage in April.
Stage three, which will not be before May 17 and at least five weeks after the second step, will see further easing of social contact rules – the rule of six and two household requirement will be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 people in parks and gardens will remain illegal.
The last stage will be no earlier than June 21 when it is hoped that all legal limits on social contact will be removed, although there will be reviews on the wearing of facemasks, international travel, venues reopening and the return of major events.
businesses of all sizes have faced a very testing 12 months and it is vital that they now have the tools to emerge stronger from the pandemic
He told MPs: “The chief medical officer is clear that moving any faster would mean acting before we know the impact of each step, which would increase the risk of us having to reverse course and reimpose restrictions, I won’t take that risk.”
IoD Director General Jonathan Geldart said: “The vaccine rollout has shown that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the UK and our economy, and today’s roadmap is another welcome step forward. But there is more work ahead for the Government.
“Directors and businesses of all sizes have faced a very testing 12 months and it is vital that they now have the tools to emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Business leaders will welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to an irreversible ending of lockdown, but cashflow support needs to follow alongside the roadmap, with many small firms eager to see an extension to the furlough scheme and more discretionary grant funding.
“It is crucial that businesses have clarity around how the Government perceives the UK is meeting its four key tests to help them plan, taking into considering the lead times they need to ensure workplaces are Covid-safe and so they can start rehiring.
“We look forward to hearing more details in next week’s Budget and press the Chancellor to ensure that those who have worked so hard to keep their business going are not left behind when we are so close to the finish line.”
overall payment performance fell from 47.3 per cent in March 2020 to 41.8 per cent in December 2020
Tim Vine, Head of Finance & Risk Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet, said: “A year of Lockdown restrictions has taken its toll on UK business, and although our latest trade data shows business failures and liquidations have dropped by 34 per cent from 2019 to 2020 due to government loans and support schemes, our trade payment performance data paints a different picture – highlighting a significant decrease in the number of businesses paying bills on time.
“The latest data shows that overall payment performance fell from 47.3 per cent in March 2020 to 41.8 per cent in December 2020.
“Having access to data and analysis to inform business decisions is even more critical in an uncertain environment, and businesses can use information such as payment performance and credit history to predict the likely impact of continued disruption on their cash flow.”
Eloise Shuttleworth, Senior Director, Customer Success at Iterable said: “After a year of disruption and hardship, it’s reassuring to see some light at the end of the tunnel. But even as we look forward to the return of physical retail, the importance of ecommerce is unlikely to diminish. Consumer behaviour has changed, with online shopping becoming the norm.”
Matthew Shaw, Creative Director at sauveur, the creative events company, said: “The events and weddings industries are filled with highly resourceful, skilled, and agile professionals, who have been crying out for a clear framework from which to build. At long last, this roadmap offers some much needed visibility and guidance.
we are likely to see a shift in how working parents manage their time, replacing home schooling with school runs
“But it is only the first step. The second summer season decimated by the pandemic will not be easy. It’s vital that the Budget includes extensive support for freelancers and the self-employed, a clear plan for small businesses, and a substantial commitment to the highly valued events industry.
“If the Chancellor fails on this front, he risks causing everlasting damage to the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the industry, as well as those looking to celebrate happy moments after an unfathomably difficult year.”
Laura Jackson, Associate at specialist employment solicitors LexLeyton, described the reopening of schools as “a welcome move for parents, easing the burden on those who have had to juggle working from home with home schooling”.
She added: “It is also a huge bonus for employers, reducing the impact of childcare on their employees’ working patterns. While employers have generally been extremely accommodating with employees in terms of supporting childcare needs, we are likely to see a shift in how working parents manage their time, replacing home schooling with school runs.
“Employers should take this opportunity to proactively reach out to employees to discuss how they can best accommodate these changes.”