Businesses Need a COVID Plan Now – POLITICO

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Shevaun Haviland is the Managing Director of the British Chambers of Commerce. She tweets to @BCCShevaun.

When the COVID-19 crisis engulfed the world, it was first and foremost a public health emergency of a scale and severity unprecedented in at least a century. But it also quickly turned into an economic shock of similar magnitude, with the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey showing unprecedented impact.

Over a year later, there is new optimism in our business circles, but there is also a sense of anxiety that the crisis is not over yet and there could be more pain. future. This is why we have called on the UK government to establish a COVID emergency plan for the clear winter.

The ingenuity of our businesses has been a constant throughout the pandemic. Even in the darkest days of last winter, many businesses continued to adapt, advance our economy and serve their communities. Today, companies are leading the way in leveraging the enormous work of the immunization program, with the intention of rebuilding themselves and their communities even better than before.

I recently spoke to a family-owned office layout business that lost almost all of its clients when the first foreclosure started. Quick to react, they immediately transformed their infrastructure to equip COVID services and, later, vaccination centers. They told me that their traditional business is now resuming, but like many others, they fear it will disappear again if the restrictions return.

Businesses like these provide intrinsic social benefit to our local economies and communities and must be carefully protected. But while there are positive signs of a recovery, many businesses across the country are still grappling with large debt, depleted cash reserves, and, in many industries, significant labor shortages. artwork.

Meanwhile, the government, scientists and experts are talking about a “difficult winter” ahead. A new, more vaccine-resistant COVID variant, combined with a tough flu season, could easily put the National Health Service under extreme pressure and force the government to, once again, impose restrictions.

What businesses need now is certainty. Specifically, they need to know what circumstances would force the government to reimpose restrictions and what exactly those measures would be. The UK government’s previous roadmap had four tests that were used to decide whether the reopening could take place at each stage. We need to know if these tests still apply and what would trigger a change in approach. And we need to know it now – with a clear emergency and support plan presented by the government before winter.

In this area, Germany offers an important lesson. The country’s “Kurzarbeit” program has been a feature of its economic planning for decades. When activated – only in the most difficult circumstances – it immediately offers wage support similar to the UK leave scheme. However, being constantly ‘on the set’ and ready to go reassures businesses that they will be supported even if the worst happens.

Planning ahead this way in the UK could save thousands of jobs. Just knowing that such a plan exists would give recovering businesses – and their customers – more confidence for months to come.

We are not asking the government to look into a crystal ball and predict the future in great detail. We are simply asking that they give businesses the assurance that there is a plan in place for the winter and that they will not be left without the support they need.

This would give businesses the confidence they need to move from simple survival to growth, prosperity and emergence from the coronavirus crisis.

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