Greater London as well as parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will move to tier three restrictions from tomorrow, placing further pressure on the hospitality sector.
The new restrictions will apply across London’s 32 boroughs, the City of London, Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Thurrock, Southend-on-Sea, Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and Three Rivers.
The government said yesterday that data shows an “exponential rise in confirmed cases in these areas”, which resulted in earlier action than the original scheduled review date of 16 December.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know that this is difficult news. I know it will mean plans disrupted, and that for businesses affected, this will be a very significant blow. So this action is absolutely essential, not just to keep people safe, but because as we’ve seen early action can help prevent more damaging and longer lasting problems later.”
Industry bodies representing the hospitality and pub sectors, however, have criticised the tier system and the restrictions it places on hospitality in comparison to the retail sector.
Businesses have also had to manage the cost of bringing in stock and supplies ahead of 2 December, only to be told to close two weeks later.
In a statement, UKHospitality notes: “The tier system places an unfair, illogical and disproportionate burden on hospitality businesses without effectively tackling Covid”.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There’s still no hard evidence that hospitality venues are a significant contributor for the spike in infections. Cases were higher at the end of the last lockdown – during which hospitality was shut down – than at the start. The spread is being predominantly driven through schools – even the Mayor of London has pointed this out and called for schools to stay shut until January. Yet, once again, it is hospitality that will take the hit. The government is cracking down on hospitality for an increase in the infection rates that occurred during a period when hospitality was forcibly closed. It makes no sense.”
Nicholls called the restrictions “illogical” and said they would “push businesses closer towards failure”. .
“The government must re-think its strategy to combating the spread of Covid, including moving areas like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham into tier two. Just continuing to batter hospitality is not the answer,” she said.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the move to tier three will force an additional 1,250 pubs to close in London alone. In total it says 56,000 pub sector jobs are now at risk in the capital.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA) said it was “another nail in the coffin” for pubs in affected areas.
“A far bigger package of financial support, with wider eligibility for all businesses impacted, across all regions, is needed if our sector is to survive the tier two and three restrictions this winter. The survival of the great British pub as we know it hangs in the balance,” she said.
“It is not fair that pubs in London and other parts of England receive four times less financial support than pubs in Wales . Particularly as pubs in London are the most expensive to run. Support also needs to be made available to brewers and the wider supply chain businesses also seeing a major trade channel closed overnight.”
A review of the restrictions, as well as all those in place across other areas of England, will still go ahead as planned on 16 December. It remains to be seen whether other parts of the country which have seen cases fall, will be moved down a tier level.
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will join Kent, Medway and Slough as well as much of the midlands, north west and north east under tier three restrictions.