Hospitality prepares for Plan B as Omicron cases rise

Prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (8 December) announced that Plan B will be implemented across England, a move the government hopes will help to slow the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. 

Early analysis of the variant suggests that diagnosed cases could be doubling at a rate of as little as 2.5 to three days. The rapid rise in cases causes concern for the pressure increased hospitalisations will place on the NHS. 

From Friday 10 December, face coverings will again become mandatory in most public indoor venues, with exemptions in spaces where it is not practical to wear one, such as when people are eating, drinking or exercising. For that reason, face masks will not be required in restaurants and similar settings. 

In terms of hospitality, nightclubs will be the hardest hit, with proof of two vaccine doses shown via the app becoming mandatory for venue entry. Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.

'Devastating to city and town centre venues'

Commenting on the PM's announcement, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, says: “While the government clearly acknowledges that hospitality is safe and can continue to host celebrations in the lead up to Christmas, the measures announced today will significantly impact consumer confidence and be particularly devastating to city and town centre venues. As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year. We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the government to stand behind our industry. That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.”

From Monday 13 December, those who can will be advised to work from home. Face covering regulations will be laid in parliament tomorrow, when the remaining regulations will also be outlined in parliament. The government will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December.

Industry accountant Peter Davies of WMT Chartered Accountants and MD of WMT Troncmaster Services Ltd deems the reintroduction of work from home measures so close to Christmas a "major blow to hospitality businesses, particularly in city centres, [which] were counting on a strong trading period this month to make good some of the financial damage from earlier this year.

“Many will be worried about a wave of cancellations over the next few days and with no prospect of additional government support this will increase the risk of closures and job losses in the traditionally lean January period," adds Davies. "Some will have taken steps such as taking non-refundable deposits, but this will only mitigate the damage."

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