U.K. Businesses Raise Fears of Future Lockdowns as Cases Rise

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Weeks before the government is due to fully re-open its economy, U.K. businesses are warning that the potential for a fresh wave of restrictions is posing a threat to their ability to reboot as well.

While small companies surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce are increasingly optimistic about their near-term prospects, progress risks being derailed by the possibility of another nationwide lockdown, according to a BCC statement on Sunday.

“The ability of businesses to bounce back from the devastation caused by Covid is a huge testament to their resilience,” said Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC. “The government must now clarify the future of safety measures, such as social distancing, and set out a clear package of support that would be available should further restrictions be imposed on businesses this year, or in the years to come.”

Four out of five businesses say they expect to be operating at the same levels as before the pandemic by October, with more than half saying they’re there already. But almost 40% of the companies surveyed say the threat of future lockdowns are holding them back from re-opening at all.

The comments come as the government faces pressure from its own party on top of businesses to keep to its promise of lifting a final swathe of lockdown restrictions on June 21. That timeline is under threat by the spread of the highly infectious delta variant first identified in India, with new daily infections reaching their highest level since late March on Friday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it’s still “too early” to say whether the government will be able to keep to the date for lifting the measures.

Almost half of the companies in the survey said access to finance would help to get their business up and running again. Aside from the potential for another lockdown, other concerns included less demand from customers, difficulties recruiting staff and pressure from inflation.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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