Firms call for details of post lockdown reopening so they can plan

Few people are seen at Times Square in Manhattan, New York in the night March 22, 2020. New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered New Yorkers to stay home to slow the new coronavirus pandemic from 22th night. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun )

BBC.- Business leaders have called on the government to work with them on a roadmap out of lockdown to unlock investment for a post-Covid recovery.

In a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the Confederation of British Industry says the time to plan for re-opening the economy in England is now.

Firms are «in the dark» about planning for the months ahead, the employers’ group said.

A government spokesperson said lockdown would be lifted as soon as possible.

But the CBI, which speaks on behalf of about 190,000 businesses, said there is an opportunity to «use time wisely» to prepare for a safe re-opening of the economy.

In a letter to Mr Kwarteng, CBI director-general Tony Danker, writes: «With health teams rightly in crisis management mode, we in business along with the economic ministries can use this time to plan for a successful re-opening of the economy when the moment is right to do so.

«Businesses are currently completely in the dark when planning for the weeks and months ahead and this is hindering investment. We can provide more clarity and do the prep work now to enable them to plan for reopening and growth.»

Mr Danker will also be writing to the devolved nations’ governments next week.

The CBI calls for clarification on what will be considered low, medium or high-risk economic activity, so that businesses can understand what will open sooner or later.

Mr Danker also wants to know whether or not there will be a return to tiering, as part of a gradual re-opening.

He also wants the creation of bespoke, detailed plans for the harder-to-open sectors of the economy, such as testing regimes for international travel, or the conditions for activities such as hospitality and live events to return.

Mr Danker says in the letter: «The Prime Minister has set out the initial parameters for reopening as a country, which was a big help for businesses. Clearly, the precise dates will be determined by data, so let’s use this time wisely to get the roadmap right together for when lockdown ends.

«A common framework with devolved administrations must also be possible and help to minimise differences in approach.»

Job protection

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is working on a recovery plan, expected to be published ahead of next month’s Budget. That plan will, according to reports, focus on jobs and investment.

A government spokesperson said: «As the prime minister has made clear, we will lift restrictions as soon as we can, but by lifting them too soon we run the risk of placing our NHS under even greater pressure and having to re-impose restrictions at a later date.»

The spokesperson pointed out that the government had invested more than £280bn during the pandemic to protect jobs and businesses, adding: «By mid-February we will be in a better position to lay out the next steps for the economy without risking renewed pressure on our NHS.»

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