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Covid-19 Plan B: Hospitality sector faces £8billion losses


Britain’s hospitality venues faces losing £8billion over the Christmas season amid new Covid-19 restrictions with pubs and restaurants facing mass cancellations under Plan B, and concerns that measures could be ‘catastrophic’.

Boris Johnson last night announced the move to a series of new rules, with guidance to work from home and the use of domestic Covid passports for entry to venues, in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

But those in the hospitality and events industry said it would ‘likely be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses’ and their businesses were ‘only just struggling to get back on its feet’ after successive lockdowns.

One restaurant owner in London said he had now lost three out of four Christmas party bookings for large companies next week costing him £42,000 and that the situation in the UK was a ‘national embarrassment’.

There are also fears that venues will be at the mercy of the NHS app working correctly to show vaccine passports, after users last night reporting issues with being unable to download their passes or facing a loading screen.

One message said an ‘unexpected error’ had occurred, while another told users: ‘Please try again later. There are currently issues with accessing the Covid Pass on the NHS app and website. We are investigating the issue.’

The NHS Covid pass, which can be obtained by having two vaccines or a negative lateral flow test, will be introduced for entry into nightclubs and other large venues from next Wednesday, December 15.

Mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs and venues is ‘devastating’ for sector

Michael Kill, from the Night Time Industries Association

Michael Kill, from the Night Time Industries Association

Government plans to make the NHS Covid pass mandatory in nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather have been criticised as ‘devastating news’ for the sector.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that from a week’s time, individuals will need certification to access such spaces. The Prime Minister also confirmed mandatory mask wearing will be extended to public places like cinemas and theatres from Friday.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the announcement came at the ‘worst possible time’. He said: ‘Today’s announcement of Plan B by the Government is devastating news for the nightlife sector.

‘Vaccine Passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30 per cent – and Wales, where it down 26 per cent.

‘The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the Government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging Vaccine Passports are to be implemented.

‘Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic.

‘The fact that businesses have only been given one week to make such an enormous change to their operating model is an additional insult.’

A Government report in June concluded that, at the time, the negative impacts of introducing vaccine passports outweighed the public health benefits, and suggested they could also discourage people from attending venues.

Citing that report, Mr Kill added: ‘You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement. Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing Street Christmas party? 

‘It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.’

Kate Nicholls, the head of the trade body UKHospitality, said: ‘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.’

Ms Nicholls said the new restrictions could hit revenues at pubs and restaurants by up to 40 per cent over Christmas, telling the Daily Telegraph that the hospitality industry normally makes about a quarter of its £100billion annual revenues in December alone.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have faced calls to bolster support for businesses following the announcement at Downing Street yesterday, while union chiefs have called for the return of a furlough scheme to help office cleaners, hospitality staff and shop workers who will be hit by commuters staying away from their desks.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, criticised the decision to make the NHS Covid pass mandatory in England for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.

He said: ‘Today’s announcement of Plan B by the Government is devastating news for nightlife sector.

‘Vaccine Passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30 per cent – and Wales, where it down 26 per cent.

‘The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the Government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging Vaccine Passports are to be implemented.

‘Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic. The fact that businesses have only been given one week to make such an enormous change to their operating model is an additional insult.’

A Government report in June concluded that, at the time, the negative impacts of introducing vaccine passports outweighed the public health benefits, and suggested they could also discourage people from attending venues.

Citing that report, Mr Kill added: ‘You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement.

‘Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing St Christmas party?

‘It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.’

Meanwhile Andy Jones, the owner of Jones and Sons Restaurants in Dalston, East London, told Sky News: ‘Next week we had four nights booked in for very large companies. Each party over 120 people. We have one remaining. Now on a monetary value, I worked it out this morning, it’s about £42,000 and that’s just in one venue in one week.

‘We’re losing tables hand over fist in the restaurant. Last night was quite good, people who already made plans. Scaremongering today, more kick in, everybody’s reading about the Omicron virus today, everybody’s talking about it, people are going to be making decisions, companies are going to be making decisions.

NHS Covid Pass faces issues hours after Plan B announcement 

The NHS Covid Pass experienced technical difficulties on Wednesday hours after the Prime Minister announced a move to Plan B in England.

Users reported on social media being unable to download their domestic or travel passes from the NHS England app.

Those who tried to download the domestic pass were faced with a loading screen before it diverted to a page outlining how to get the pass.

Others wanting to download their travel pass were presented with a message which said: ‘An unexpected error has occurred.’

Some users said they got a message which said: ‘Please try again later. There are currently issues with accessing the Covid Pass on the NHS app and website. We are investigating the issue and will update as soon as we can.’

It comes hours after Boris Johnson announced England would be moving into Plan B following a spike in cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The NHS Covid Pass, which can be obtained by having two vaccines or a negative lateral flow test, will be introduced for entry into nightclubs and other large venues from December 15.

The passes can be downloaded from the NHS app and saved onto mobile phones or saved as a PDF and printed off. They last for 30 days.

A statement from NHS Digital said: ‘We are aware of an issue affecting access to the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App and website. We are investigating this as a priority and will update as soon as we can.’

A further statement issued later added: ‘We are continuing to investigate the current issues with the NHS COVID Pass and will provide an update as soon as possible. We apologise for any issues this may have caused and appreciate your patience as we work to resolve it.’

‘And those decisions are going to be to stay at home. And they’re not going to be coming into pubs, bars, restaurants and it’s going to be another Christmas that we really rely on in the hospitality industry, that’s absolutely decimated by the actions of one man that’s not willing to follow the own rules that he’s setting in place.

‘It’s a disgrace. We should be a country that’s leading from the front and I feel we’re a national embarrassment at the moment.’

Under the plans announced by Mr Johnson, mandatory mask-wearing will be extended to indoor public venues including cinemas, theatres and places of worship from Friday – but will not be required in pubs and restaurants.

Among the concerned small business owners is Denise Yeats, director of London-based Denise Yeats Creative Event Production, who said: ‘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.’

Eddie Young, a magician at Burton upon Trent-based Misterey Entertainment, added: ‘The nightmares are starting all over again. I am starting to get cancellations already. This will likely be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses.’

And Paul Asbridge, founder of the West Midlands-based music entertainment company Jam Hot, said: ‘Let’s hope we’re the entertainment that Boris books to perform at the No.10 Christmas party this year, because all of the other events in our diary are dropping like flies.’

Meanwhile Jo Ferreday of the Market Harborough-based hospitality and events company Sheer Edge:, added ‘The majority of my income is based on live and in-person events so the move to Plan B has been a real blow, especially as there was no indication about how long these new restrictions will be in place. 2022 has a huge shadow of uncertainty over it.’

Guidance to work from home where possible will return on Monday.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Requiring people to work from home over the busy Christmas period will hit jobs – unless ministers bring back furlough.

‘Cleaners, receptionists, conference and banqueting staff and hospitality and retail workers will be short of work if people don’t come into offices.

‘Ministers must reassure workers in hard-hit sectors like hospitality, leisure and travel that their livelihoods are secure.’

She said a permanent short-time working scheme should be put in place for future crises and the ‘broken sick-pay system’ should be fixed to support people to self-isolate.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said firms wanted consistency in the Government’s approach, with a commitment to the ongoing availability of free Covid-19 testing.

The CBI’s chief policy director, Matthew Fell, said: ‘Fresh restrictions are a big setback for businesses, particularly for those in hospitality and retail who are in a critical trading period, as well as others such as transport.

‘While Covid certification can support public health, careful implementation and enforcement will be required to assist businesses affected.

‘It will be vital that the impact of these restrictions is closely monitored, and that the Government is ready with targeted support as required.’

And Jace Tyrell, chief executive of the New West End Company business partnership in London, said: ‘While our top priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues, and we fully support mandatory mask wearing in shops, the renewed ‘work from home’ order during the most important trading period of the year is a hammer blow for our retail and leisure tenants.

‘Many businesses have committed time and money in their Christmas plans in a bid to make up for last year’s losses – vital investment that they won’t be able to recoup.’

During the press conference, Mr Johnson had also faced questions about allegations Downing Street staff broke Covid rules in a Christmas party last year.

Greg Parmley, chief executive of music industry trade body LIVE, said the new rules would have a disproportionate impact on the sector.

He said: ‘The introduction of Plan B results is an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification.

‘Across the country, music venues and events already have tried, tested and workable systems in place to ensure that live events continue to be safe – and these remain effective.

‘However, after such a prolonged closure throughout the pandemic it is important the industry is able to remain open and that the Government have listened to the industry and included the use of lateral flow testing in Covid certification.’

The Music Venue Trust, which works to protect grassroots spaces, praised the Government’s decision to include negative lateral flow tests among its list of accepted certifications for entry.

Chief executive Mark Davyd said: ‘Whilst this is obviously a blow to the progress in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the Government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid Pass policy that recognises testing.

‘MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues, and we welcome the news that this has been recognised in the new policy.’

Jon Morgan, director of the Theatres Trust, said the Government’s new guidance to work from home where possible will hit the sector in the run-up to Christmas.

He said: ‘The new work from home advice is understandable in light of rising Covid-19 cases and the new Omicron variant, however it will have a big impact on the willingness of people to travel and go to theatres over Christmas.

‘This will have a knock-on effect on theatres’ viability at a vital time of year for the industry and Christmas shows that are just emerging from the significant loss of revenue in 2020 and early 2021.

‘Theatres have put in place fully risk assessed precautions to ensure their productions and audiences are safe, and we hope that the promising audience trends we have seen over the late summer and early autumn can continue but new work from home guidance puts this at risk.

‘We hope the remaining Culture Recovery Fund money can be targeted swiftly to help theatres through this difficult period.’ 

A Treasury spokesman said: ‘We’re taking the action set out in our Winter Plan and are acting early to help control the virus’s spread – while avoiding unduly damaging economic and social restrictions.

‘Our £400billion Covid support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic.’



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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