Britain announced on Tuesday 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) of extra support for businesses hit hardest by the wave of Omicron COVID-19 variant, which is hammering the country’s hospitality sector and other businesses.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said he was confident the measures would help hundreds of thousands of businesses.
But he added that he would “respond proportionately and appropriately” if the government were to impose further restrictions to slow Omicron, which would further hit the economy.
Under the support announced on Tuesday, hospitality and leisure firms in England will be eligible for grants of up to £6,000 for each of their premises, accounting for almost £700 million of the new package.
A fund to support cultural organisations would be increased by £30 million, while £100 million would be provided to English local authorities for business support measures and £150 million to governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The ministry also said it would cover the cost of statutory sick pay for COVID-related absences, for up to two weeks per employee, for small and medium-sized employers across the United Kingdom.
Asked about the likelihood of more restrictions, Sunak said the situation was too uncertain to know the path ahead.
“What the prime minister said is that we’re reviewing the data day by day, hour by hour, keeping the situation under constant review but can’t rule anything out,” he said.
Figures from trade body UKHospitality published on Monday showed a 40% fall in takings over the weekend and deep gloom about the prospects for New Year’s Eve. read more