The UK is facing a record wave of infections.
The owner of Parlez, a pub and restaurant in South London, expected sales this Christmas to have fully recovered from last winter’s Covid-19 shutdown. Instead, all group bookings this week canceled their bookings.
The UK is facing a record wave of infections, and Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned on Wednesday that the “phenomenal” case numbers mean doctors and nurses will inevitably fall ill. That leaves companies like Speak pessimistic about what will come next.
The restrictions that are already in place, including the advice to work from home, mean that those who might have been comfortable meeting for a drink are now thinking twice, owner Matt Ward said. Businesses at another of Ward’s pubs, the White Horse in South London’s Brixton neighborhood, have also been hit.
“The pub has not returned to its pre-Covid turnover anyway, but now the instability is back,” Ward said. “We had a good Saturday but a bad Sunday, then a good Monday with the questionnaire but a very quiet Tuesday.”
The British hotel industry, which is already trying to recover from months of lockdown earlier in the year, is once again taking an economic hit as the pandemic intensifies again. This time, so far, there is no government safety net, even as nearly 79,000 cases were reported Wednesday.
Although venues are still open, commerce is slowing before the key holiday period as people stay home and avoid socializing in pubs, clubs, and restaurants.
In the City of London’s financial district, fewer than 30 people could be seen drinking outside pubs on Watling Street on Wednesday. Business was also slow at Leadenhall Market, where pubs are usually packed in December with hundreds of insurance brokers.
“The drop in revenue is terrible for restaurants, particularly in the center of major cities like London,” said Des Gunewardena, CEO and chairman of D&D London, which is behind 43 restaurants, bars and hotels located mainly in the city. capital of the United Kingdom.
Last week, D&D lost 15% of its reserves, and this week appears to be much worse, Gunewardena told Bloomberg. “The government must step up and fully compensate us for the massive impact on earnings caused by their ads and Covid targeting.”
Restaurateur Tom Kerridge took to social media Tuesday to reveal that 654 guests had canceled reservations in the past six days and warned that many venues would “collapse” without help.
Transportation is also running out. The number of people using the London Underground dropped by nearly a fifth in rush hour on Monday morning this week, official figures showed.
Transactions at Pret A Manger Ltd. cafes in London’s financial districts are now at their lowest level since October, according to Bloomberg’s Pret index.
In Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is attempting to walk a tightrope among scientists who already believe tougher measures by Covid are needed to counter omicron, and many of his Conservative Party colleagues, who have raised concerns about the erosion of civil liberties.
Johnson suffered the biggest rebellion of his term on Tuesday night, when 100 conservative lawmakers opposed parts of his “Plan B” strategy. Already under pressure for a series of missteps, and with his poll ratings falling, the prime minister used a press conference on Wednesday to urge people to be “cautious” before Christmas.
Major lobbyists called on Johnson not to leave the business unprotected as he sought to safeguard public health. Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said Whitty’s call on the British to cut back on social contacts before Christmas would have “a huge impact” on business and lamented the “disconcerting” lack of government assistance. .
“Businesses now face the combination of two serious problems with absent staff and plummeting consumer confidence,” said McGregor-Smith.
The Confederation of British Industry called Plan B “pragmatic and sensible” but warned of future “unintended consequences” for the economy.
The British hotel industry is already having to deal with supply chain and workforce disruption and the impact of Brexit. With the virus resurfacing, trading body UKHospitality predicted that bar and restaurant profits will decline by as much as 40% in December due to cancellations.
The fear of some leading hospitality figures is that if new restrictions are put in place, pubs and restaurants struggling during December may find January, traditionally a difficult month for hospitality, even more difficult.
Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon Plc, said earlier this week that the government’s “radical” approach amounted to a “stealth blockade.” Luke Johnson, president of investment firm Risk Capital Partners and former president of the Pizza Express chain, said on Twitter that even the current restrictions “are inconsistent, arbitrary and probably totally ineffective” against Covid.
It’s not just about hospitality facing tough times. Britain’s retail sector, the country’s largest private employer, relies heavily on the influx of the public to shopping malls and malls in the run-up to Christmas, which is when businesses get most of their Profits.
Alex Baldock, CEO of Currys Plc, the electronics retailer, said the market was weakening in the run-up to Christmas and warned that further restrictions would be highly damaging.
“There would have to be a very clear public health case to shut down retail again,” he said in a call with reporters. “There are 3 million jobs and 17 billion pounds ($ 22.5 billion) of taxes at stake here. We are in a good position to drive the recovery; we are not begging, we just want to trade.”
Even Premier League football is under threat. Rising infections have forced several postponements, with Burnley’s Premier League game against Watford on Wednesday being the last to be canceled.
Joining Johnson on Downing Street, Nikki Kanani, chief medical officer for primary care at the National Health Service in England, said sports fans should do their bit.
“If you are going to go to a stadium on the weekend, make it one where you can get a vaccine or help administer a vaccine, instead of going to see a game,” Kanani said.