Rishi Sunak has unveiled £1bn in financial support to help the UK’s struggling hospitality and leisure sector amid a mass cancellation of Christmas plans as daily Omicron cases soar above 91,000. This comes at Boris Johnson confirms that no new Covid restrictions will be brought in for England before Christmas, but warns: “we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas.” The chancellor has announced an extra £30m to help theatres and museums, which will run from the winter to March 2022, in addition to cash grants for businesses of up to £6,000 per premises. The government has also promised, from today, to help firms with the cost of of sick pay for Covid-related absences, although this statutory sick pay rebate scheme is only available to businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
Even without another lockdown, consumer fear over the virus and government advice to limit social contact is wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry. Hospitality UK reports that many businesses have lost 40 to 60% of their trade for December – the most crucial month for driving revenue. And almost half of London’s major theatres have cancelled performances in the past week.