Businesses want assurances that Covid restrictions are ‘scientifically based’

Businesses have challenged the Prime Minister to meet a range of tests to demonstrate that proposed restrictions to combat the coronavirus are scientifically based and effective.

The move came as local firms were left facing major concerns as to whether they could continue to trade under the present restrictions or whether they would be hit by a further government clampdown - and warned of redundancies and business failures.

John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce which represents businesses in Huntingdonshire, said: “Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, as an integral part of the Accredited Chamber Network, have yesterday sent a letter to the Prime Minister following a week of increasing, regionally tiered restrictions, with more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions under consideration, as the country battles a second wave of the pandemic.”

He said the letter challenged the Prime Minister to meet five key business tests, both for current and prospective Coronavirus restrictions to demonstrate that they were effective.

It questioned whether the restrictions were evidence-based and targeted effectively, were clear and whether businesses had time to prepare for them, whether support for businesses was commensurate with the impact on them, whether time restrictions would be used to significantly improve the test, trace and isolate system and whether there was a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions.

Mr Bridge said the letter read: “While the recent announcement of an enhanced Job Support Scheme will assist some firms, chamber members tell us it will not be enough to stave off mass redundancies and business failures.”

It also called for major improvements to the test and trace system, blaming its failure for potential further restrictions, rather than the efforts of hard-working businesses.

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Mr Bridge said chambers were clear about the consequences of not meeting the tests, with the letter adding: “These tests must be met – to avoid serious damage to business and consumer confidence, and potentially catastrophic economic consequences. We must preserve our economy in the immediacy, while also laying the foundations of future growth. Failure to do so will undermine any broader efforts to ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK.

“The coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. The government must waste no more time in setting out a clear strategy to keep the economy functioning, while protecting public health over the long term.”