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Business Groups Call for Clarity as England Prepares to Reopen

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Several business groups have called on the government to provide a greater degree of clarity about its plans for relevant policies when Covid restrictions are lifted in England from July 19th.

The prime minister Boris Johnson recently announced that plans for an unlocking of the economy will go ahead later this month but businesses are working to determine precisely what the likely impacts of that process might be for them.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed plans to unlock the economy and suggested it should be particularly good news for operators in the nightlife, hospitality and events sector, many of which have been closed for well over a year.

However, the FSB also pointed out that businesses will need clear guidance from policymakers on issues around what to do when and if their staff test positive for Covid-19 and whether the costs associated with routine testing will be covered by government.

“After enforcing restrictions for so long, the government must not simply withdraw and allow a free-for-all. The sooner we have crystal clear, comprehensive guidance the better,” said Mike Cherry from the FSB.

Another issue highlighted by the FSB is that of confidence, with businesses potentially still at least a little uncertain of what the near future holds for them given “previous false dawns”, which Mr Cherry from the FSB says “proved disruptive and disappointing”.

For its part, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said it views boosting consumer and employee confidence as critical to supporting an economic recovery that will seemingly now need to happen in the context of a country and a population “learning to live with the virus”.

“Developing a more agile and responsive test and release system for self-isolation will help give firms greater confidence in being able to plan for the future,” said John Foster, the CBI’s director of policy.

“Rapid testing availability means it’s right to relax self-isolation rules, which is critical as cases increase,” he added.

Meanwhile, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has welcomed indications from the prime minister that England is on the verge of a full reopening of its economy but cautioned that “much remains in the balance”.

“Firms do not yet know the future of self-isolation rules, if testing will remain free for them, or when international travel will open up effectively,” said Shevaun Haviland, the BCC’s director general.

“Without clear guidance for businesses around the new proposals, there could be real uncertainty on how they should operate going forward and what they should be doing to keep staff and their customers safe.”

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