Following the Government’s announcement of a new three tiered system of lockdown to try to contain a second wave of the COVID-19 cases, Colliers International’s Head of Alternative Markets James Shorthouse shared his reaction.
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that pubs and bars in areas under the Tier 3 “very high” local COVID alert level would have to close, and could only remain open if they operated as a restaurant. Ambiguity remains over restrictions on gyms, leisure centres and casinos, although these have been told to close in Liverpool which is the first area in England to be categorised as very-high.
“After weeks of uncertainty, and inconsistent introduction of local lockdowns the Government had the chance this week to take the initiative in the battle against COVID,” James said. “The three tiers had been widely trailed, and the leisure and hospitality sectors were braced for the new rules, but uncertainty still prevails.
“Operators are resigned to a difficult few months with restricted trading hours and additional rules around who and what can be served, resulting in significant financial hardships. There is a deep sense of injustice that the hospitality, sport and leisure sectors are being singled out as being primarily responsible for the spread of the virus, but with limited science or evidence to back this up. Indeed, with fitness and health being a key concern of the Prime Minister, following his own experience of the virus, prohibiting gyms and sports facilities from operating will be opportunity lost.
“I have no doubt that the sector will act responsibly and implement the new rules, but in return the Government must be forthcoming with additional financial support for companies and employees. The scope of the Job Support Scheme remains unclear, and the Government has so far failed to offer any fiscal intervention into the ever growing mountain of unpaid rents and business debts, not even an extension to current temporary waivers. Without additional targeted support the loss of peak December trading may prove to be the final straw for large numbers of businesses across the UK, especially in the Midlands and North.
“Time will tell whether the new system of lockdowns is effective, or if we do need to move to a full lockdown for a short period, but whatever happens over the next few weeks, feedback from our clients suggests they are expecting it to be a grim Christmas for the hospitality and leisure sectors, and its customers.”