Second national lockdown 'devastating blow' to firms in Suffolk, business chiefs say
An independent group representing businesses in Suffolk has called on the Government to offer 'sustained help' to employers and businesses during the second coronavirus lockdown – which it described as a 'devastating blow' to the business community.
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce's head of communications and campaigns, also said the Government must not 'squander' the lockdown – which begins tomorrow and lasts until at least December 2 – but use the time to 'enable mass testing and fix Test and Trace systems' which 'hold the key to a lasting exit strategy' for public health and the economy.
It comes as businesses in Suffolk have described the impacts of a second lockdown as 'devastating' – including fireworks companies across the county who will lose out on their 'most important day of the year' when the country is told to stay at home as of Thursday, November 5, which is bonfire night in the UK.
Mr Simon said: "There’s no getting around the fact that these new restrictions will be a devastating blow to business communities across west Suffolk and beyond who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely.
“Business and market confidence have been hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach taken by the Government over the past eight months, with little end in sight."
He said many firms are now in a 'much weaker position' than the start of the pandemic, which makes it 'far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions'.
“The temporary extension of the furlough scheme will bring short-term relief to many firms, and responds to Suffolk Chamber’s call for business support to be commensurate with the scale of the restrictions imposed," Mr Simon added.
"While there is no substitute for a functioning economy, the full financial support package for businesses facing hardship, whether through loss of demand or closure, must immediately be clarified and communicated.
"Sustained help must be available to employers, to the self-employed and to the many businesses and individuals that have not been able to access any of the government’s schemes to date.
“The Government must not squander the time afforded to them through another lockdown to enable mass testing and fix Test and Trace systems - which hold the key to a lasting exit strategy for both public health and the economy.”
The comments came as three of Suffolk's MPs said they back the decision to place the country into lockdown for four weeks.
Matt Hancock, health secretary and MP for West Suffolk, said: "With the overwhelming evidence in the rise in cases where people tested positive for coronavirus, we had to act to contain the spread of the virus and protect the local NHS from being overwhelmed."