Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that London and large swathes of Southeast England would enter “Tier 4” restrictions, which are broadly equivalent to the national lockdown in England in November.
People in Tier 4 will have to stay at home except for limited exemptions, and retail businesses deemed non-essential, indoor gyms, leisure facilities, and personal care services must close.
“Wherever infections rise, it’s right that the Government takes the necessary steps to protect public health,” said Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). “But news that large swathes of the South East will come under new tier 4 restrictions will be a real kick in the teeth for many businesses already struggling badly,” he said in a statement.
He said many retailers were “counting on clawing back some lost ground after a really hard year,” and urged the government to review in January how it can support UK businesses through to the spring.
Tony Danker, director-general of CBI, said the group is in touch with the government to ensure businesses are supported.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, called the new restrictions “hugely regrettable news.”
“Retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds making stores Covid-secure for customers and staff, and SAGE’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus,” she said in a statement.
SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) is the British government’s scientific advisory body.
Dickinson said the new COVID-19 lockdown measures will have “sever” consequences.
“For businesses, the government’s stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful—this decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and right in the middle of peak trading which so many are depending on to power their recovery.
“Faced with this news—and the prospect of losing [2 billion pounds] ($2.7 billion) per week in sales for the third time this year—many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.”
She urged the government to offer additional financial support to help businesses “get back on an even keel.”
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.