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Businesses React to PM’s Living With COVID Strategy

Businesses React to PM’s Living With COVID Strategy
22 February 2022
 

Boris Johnson has set out England’s plan for “living with COVID” – but how do business leaders feel about the next steps?

The Prime Minister has confirmed that domestic legal restrictions will end on 24 February, as COVID-19 will be treated “as other infectious diseases such as flu.”

This means that the legal requirement to self-isolate will end, as will self-isolation support payments and the universal free provision of tests.

From 1 April, venues will no longer be recommended to use the NHS COVID Pass and the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments will be removed.

Official government advice states:

“The public are encouraged to continue to follow public health advice, as with all infectious diseases such as the flu, to minimise the chance of catching COVID and help protect family and friends.

“This includes by letting fresh air in when meeting indoors, wearing a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, and washing your hands.”

 

“Firms will only truly be able to ‘Live with COVID’ when they are confident that a plan is in place for future outbreaks. Uncertainty will put a brake on investment and the shadow of the pandemic could continue to loom over our economy for some time to come.”

–Claire Walker

Co-Executive Director, The British Chamber of Commerce

 

Companies Must Still be Able to Access Tests

 

The Co-Executive Director of The British Chamber of Commerce broadly welcomed the changes, although warned against passing “public health decisions on to the business community”.

Claire Walker said: “Members continue to tell us that access to free testing is key to managing workplace sickness and maintaining consumer confidence. If the government is to remove this, companies must still be able to access tests on a cost-effective basis.

“We look forward to consulting with government to help shape the new guidance for businesses that will be developed. It is critical that a variety of issues and scenarios be fully addressed by this. Businesses need clarity if they are to operate at maximum capacity, as well as keep consumers and employee’s confidence high.

 

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Future Outbreaks

 

Claire added: “Businesses also need to understand how government will respond to further variants of concern – or indeed a future pandemic – and what support would be put in place if new guidance or mandatory restrictions are introduced that have a negative impact on the economy.

“Firms will only truly be able to ‘Live with COVID’ when they are confident that a plan is in place for future outbreaks. Uncertainty will put a brake on investment and the shadow of the pandemic could continue to loom over our economy for some time to come.”

 

Guidance Needed on Sick Pay

 

Matthew Fell, Confederation of British Industry Chief Policy Director, added that firms will want the strategy to be a “springboard for confidence”:

“Living confidently with the virus means prioritising infrastructure over interventions, as the CBI has set out previously. The UK has developed a world-leading vaccine and anti-viral programme, and firms will welcome the government’s continued emphasis on these key pillars.

“While free testing cannot continue forever, there is a balance to be struck between confidence-building and cost-cutting. Mass lateral flow testing has kept our economy open and firms continue to believe the economic benefits far outweigh the costs.

“The government now needs to add further guidance on issues like sick pay and employer liability to avoid the risk of a legal vacuum. Many firms will continue to be cautious and use extra measures to protect their staff and customers, as they have from the outset.”

Picture: a photograph of a person waiting on a train platform. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 22 February 2022

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