Bosses warned today that hospitality firms need support ‘in the next 24 hours’ as venues prepare to shut their doors in the face of dwindling customer numbers, with morning rush-hour traffic in London today falling to its lowest level since the third coronavirus lockdown began.
Offices and city centres have been abandoned as Omicron cases continue to soar across Britain – with many businesses now working from home in the run-up to Christmas after the government latest ‘work from home if you can’ advice, leaving roads empty and public transport barely used.
Pubs and restaurants across the UK have also been forced to close amid rising Covid cases, with several reporting that they do not have enough staff available to continue serving food and drink over the busy festive period.
The operator of the Real Greek and Franco Manca restaurant chains called for emergency rescue packages regardless of whether the Government introduces new measures to stop the spread of Covid. And the boss of trade body UKHospitality said ‘as many as 10,000 sites’ could close if support is not announced imminently.
The group said 54 per cent of venues were down more than 40 per cent in revenue last weekend, with one in five businesses down more than 60 per cent. A Tourism Alliance poll also found a third of pubs, bars and restaurants have no cash reserves and 10 per cent of pubs and 14 per cent of restaurants are therefore very likely to fail.
The congestion figure for the 8am-9am morning rush hour in London today was 21%, according to TomTom data. This was the lowest level of congestions for the morning rush-hour on a working weekday in the capital since January 8.
Similar trends were seen across the UK with Newcastle seeing congestion fall from 51% to 15% in a week, the most extreme example in the country. Liverpool saw congestion fall from 58% to 18% in a week and Birmingham went from 55% to 26%.
Transport for London said there were 660,000 entries or exits on the Tube up to 10am this morning – down 35% week-on-week, and down 46% over a fortnight. There were 720,000 boarding taps on buses for the same period this morning – down 38% week-on-week.
However, the Tubes are at 58% of pre-pandemic levels and buses at 77% of pre-pandemic levels. This is higher than last Monday (December 13), when they were 46% and 71% respectively – and the main reason for this is that the schools breaking up for the Christmas holidays has a big impact.
Meanwhile, takeaway sales have surged in suburbs amid the latest work from home guidance. Hospitality leaders said customers seeking delivery had skyrocketed outside major areas following the new restrictions. They said orders away from central London have gone up as employees left the capital for Christmas.
It comes as businesses demanded a ‘roadmap’ back to normality as they faced another hammer blow due to the curbs.
Bosses said they needed support in the form of ‘grants, rates relief or VAT relief’ to keep them afloat as the pandemic drags on.
And the Night Time Industries Association released survey results revealing one third of venues fear closure within a month and one fifth of businesses fear they could lose their entire workforce without Government support.
And London’s Natural History Museum announced today it will be closing from Tuesday until December 28 due to ‘front of house staff shortages which have been impacted by Covid-19 infections and isolation requirements’.
Elsewhere in Britain’s Covid-ravaged Christmas:
- The PM was under growing pressure last night not to impose lockdown restrictions that will ruin Christmas;
- Dominic Raab defended Boris and Carrie Johnson after they were pictured ‘partying’ in the No10 garden;
- Winter infections soar across Europe amid the spread of Covid variant Omicron as countries bring in curbs;
- Ministers consider slashing quarantine period for people who test positive for Covid from ten to seven days;
- Britain recorded 82,886 Covid cases, a rise of 32,473, or 64.4 per cent, in seven days – and some 45 deaths.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive officer of UKHospitality, told the Telegraph that as many as 10,000 sites could shut their doors without imminent support.
In a statement, she added: ‘Trading has already been hugely damaged by the steady stream of pessimistic news following the discovery of the Omicron variant, at a time when hospitality would normally expect to be making a quarter of its annual profits.
‘We know from previous lockdowns that it causes venues to haemorrhage cash. It costs £10,000 to close each site and a subsequent £10,000 per month on overheads, and that was with full furlough and rate relief.
‘Trading levels are so poor that the need for proportionate Government support is already acute, and urgently necessary if businesses, jobs and livelihoods are to be secured.’
The trade body chief has urged for business rates relief and a reduction in VAT to help firms now, as well as guidance over what measures could be put in place.
London’s West End saw shopper numbers plunge by 17% against pre-pandemic levels over the weekend as cautious people chose to remain at home.
‘With less than five days to go until Christmas day and the probabilities of a circuit-breaker lockdown increasingly on the horizon, the retail and leisure sector is now facing a huge amount of financial uncertainty when it should be enjoying a much-needed shot in the arm,’ said Jace Tyrrell, CEO of the New West End Company.
David Page, chairman of Franco Manca owner Fulham Shore, told BBC Radio 4 that support is needed as firms are already facing a ‘lockdown by stealth’. He said: ‘The Chancellor, Rishi, needs to do something very, very quickly because I am not sure any of the Cabinet understands cashflow.
‘And cashflow is the problem at the moment, of the last week or two and of the next 10 days, near London, and near the city centres. These businesses have no cashflow, they are paying staff, they have got to pay their suppliers. It’s a bit of a disaster area for smaller businesses over the last two weeks, so Rishi needs to do something in the next 24 hours, I think.’
Congestion levels in London today dropped to 21 per cent, according to TomTom. Congestion data for the morning rush-hour on a working weekday in the capital has not been lower since January 8
A very quiet Duchess of Cambridge pub in Windsor today as people continue to stay at home
The King and Castle pub in Windsor is also very quiet today as people avoid going out in the days before Christmas
Several pubs and restaurants in London have announced their closure over the festive period amid falling staff numbers
Takeaway sales have surged as cities emptied of workers after the latest work from home guidance was issued. Pictured: The Piccadilly Line this morning
Hospitality leaders said customers seeking delivery had skyrocketed outside major areas following the new restrictions. Pictured: The Piccadilly Line this morning
They said orders away from central London have gone up as employees left the capital for Christmas. Pictured: The Piccadilly Line this morning
A normally busy Hatton Cross bus station is quiet as few people make their way into London this morning
It comes as businesses demanded a ‘roadmap’ back to normality as they faced another hammer blow due to the curbs. Pictured: The Tube this morning
Bosses said they needed support in the form of ‘grants, rates relief or VAT relief’ to keep them afloat as the pandemic drags on. Pictured: The Tube this morning
Empty tables are seen in a pub in London on Saturday as people continue to stay at home
Christmas shoppers in Bristol city centre today as the government refused to rule out introducing further restrictions
People walk through Bristol city centre today with just five days to go until Christmas
New push to cut ten-day Covid isolation period to a week
Ministers are considering slashing the quarantine period for people who test positive for Covid from ten to seven days.
As reported in Saturday’s Daily Mail, health experts, MPs and business leaders have called for a change, warning that the current rules risk crippling healthcare and the economy.
Anyone who is infected with the virus must isolate for ten days after first developing symptoms or testing positive.
But the ‘blunt tool’ fails to account for infectiousness and is fuelling ‘lockdown by stealth’ by keeping so many people at home.
Rishi Sunak is weighing up a VAT cut and cash boost for the ailing pubs and restaurants after jetting back to the UK from a ‘long planned’ California break.
The Chancellor is under fire from hospitality firms having only just returned from the ‘work trip’ to the US to meet tech bosses despite the threat of Omicron.
Chairman of Franco Manca owners Fulham Shore David Page told the Today programme: ‘Chris Whitty made his statement and our sales in our 20 city centric restaurants went down but then our sales on the south coast and all around England went up, exactly the same as last time.
‘We’ve got a geographical spread so that helps us. I mean if you’re exposed to central London and you’ve only got one or two sites then you’re in trouble at the moment.
‘Everybody’s in pain at the moment. we’ve switched to takeaway only in some branches because of Covid staff are self isolating.’
He went on: ‘I think if you want a choice of restaurants the Chancellor needs to do something very very quickly. I’m not sure any of the Cabinet understand cash flow.
‘And cash flow is the problem at the moment in the last week or two and over the next ten days and especially nearer London and nearer the city centres these businesses have no cash flow, they’re paying staff, they’ve got to pay their suppliers, it’s a bit of a disaster area for smaller businesses.’
Delivery and takeaway sales for last month showed they have rocketed 97 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. CGA & Slerp Hospitality at Home Tracker found sales in November were just one per cent below 2020’s figure.
Delivery sales were 192 per cent higher than in 2019, which is far higher than the 25 per cent growth in takeaways. The research showed lockdowns and tighter controls on movement had reflected the shift.
Apple Mobility Data showed a general rise in people out and about in the capital despite restrictions
Tom Tom traffic data showed there was a huge dip in people on the roads in the capital on Monday as new work from home guidance came in
The Tom Tom traffic data showed there were few even out and about in London on Sunday
Rishi Sunak is weighing up a VAT cut and cash boost for the ailing pubs and restaurants after jetting back to the UK from a ‘long planned’ California break. Pictured: The Tube this morning
A few early morning riders hopped on the Piccadilly Line this morning as they headed out of the capital
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair of the City of London Corporation, said especially firms in central London are ‘in trouble’. Pictured: The Tube this morning
Dominic Raab defends PM over No10 lockdown snap insisting staff were ‘using the garden for WORK’
Dominic Raab today defended Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie after they were pictured in the Downing Street garden at a table of cheese and wine with up to 17 people nearby during lockdown when only two people were allowed to socialise outside.
The Prime Minister and his wife were seen sitting at a table with two people while another 13 were pictured with bottles of alcohol nearby at a table and on the lawn on Friday May 15, 2020.
But Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said today that having a drink ‘after a long day or long week’ was not against the regulations when asked about the photo – and pointed out that Mr Johnson was wearing a suit.
Businesses said the government has to bring in a ‘roadmap’ back to normality to save the hospitality industry.
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair of the City of London Corporation, said especially firms in central London are ‘in trouble’.
She said: ‘It would have been the busiest time of year for our hospitality sector and until last week that’s what we were seeing and it’s gone dead.
‘If you’re in central London, you’re in trouble and you need help very very quickly. We’ve written to the Chancellor asking for support for businesses based on the number of businesses in the area.
‘Whether that’s grants, rates relief, VAT relief, we’re seeing firms that really have managed to cope so far but are going to fail if this carries on.’
She continued: ‘Tell office workers to stay home may be important for health and that’s vital but this really is cutting off their demand.’
She added: ‘What they’re desperate for is support. I think in a full lockdown what we would really ask for is as much clarity as government can give us about the roadmap out and look carefully at how the economy can continue to function.
‘Let’s look at the data and see if there are ways we can get people safely into the office. The sooner we can get people safely back the better.’
She added: ‘So businesses will need to adapt to the new normal when we finally get there, but what’s clear to us from all that we both hear and all that we see in terms of planning applications is that the office has a future long ahead of it.’
Mr Sunak is weighing up a VAT cut and cash boost for ailing pubs and restaurants suffering from the spread of Omicron.
Hatton Cross roads and bus station were quiet as a few people made their way to work in London this morning
Some people were still heading into the city centre of Monday morning despite quieter roads than usual
Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured at Heathrow Airport as he returned from a ‘long planned’ work trip to California
Tributes pour in to vaccinated Il Divo star Carlos Marin, 53, as he dies from Covid
Tributes have poured in for Il Divo star Carlos Marin who has died in hospital in Manchester following a battle with coronavirus, despite being vaccinated.
Carlos, 53, had fallen ill on December 7, tested positive for Covid shortly afterwards, and was taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary last week, his agent told media in his home country of Spain. He was subsequently put into a medically induced coma and hooked up to breathing machines, though it is unclear exactly when that happened.
‘Yesterday the singer wasn’t answering his messages and he’s now in intensive care and intubated. [His] agent has also told us Carlos was vaccinated against Covid in Mexico,’ Spanish news programme Corazon Corazon reported, without saying how long ago Carlos was jabbed, how many shots he was given, or what vaccine he received.
Carlos’s death was confirmed Sunday by bandmates who posted tributes on social media, praising his ‘beautiful soul’ and saying: ‘There will never be another voice or spirit like Carlos’.
The Chancellor is under fire from hospitality firms having only just returned from the ‘work trip’ to the US to meet tech bosses.
It saw Mr Sunak dubbed ‘California Chancellor’ as pictures from the UK’s major cities showed only a handful of revellers enjoying festive nights out.
Boris Johnson advised the nation to be cautious over the festive period, while Professor Whitty’s call for people to limit their socialising caused cancellations.
But Mr Sunak returned to the UK to hold virtual talks with officials and the PM over details of a potential new bailout package.
The Treasury is trying to ‘build up a precise picture about crunch points’ for businesses to establish what is required, a source told the Telegraph.
It comes after a report from the Tory’s think tank warning Government bailouts have ‘fostered a sense of entitlement’ and left an ‘uphill task to restore expectations’.
Pubs ‘lost all their Christmas bookings virtually overnight’ in the wake of Government guidance to work from home due to the rising threat of Omicron.
Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin also lashed out at ministers for pursuing ‘lockdown by stealth’, with pubs saying the new guidance had persuaded many punters that it was not worth going ahead with their festive gatherings.
One London hotel told MailOnline it was expecting £100,000 worth of losses from cancelled events, rooms and covers – and said many staff were fearing for their jobs given the extent the industry relies on a lucrative Christmas period.
The Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, held calls with hospitality chiefs earlier this week.
Downing Street said some of the companies and organisations who took part were Prezzo, Black Sheep Brewery, Nando’s, Greene King, Whitbread, Adnams, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses, British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and UK Hospitality.
Nearly a million coronavirus jabs were delivered in England yesterday, Sajid Javid revealed today as he criticised unvaccinated people for refusing to get protected
The Health Secretary said on Twitter that a new daily record of 906,656 people were vaccinated, including more than 830,000 receiving booster jabs
Boris Johnson was under growing pressure last night not to impose lockdown restrictions that will ruin Christmas for the second year in a row
People who get breakthrough COVID-19 infections after being fully vaccinated have ‘super immunity’
A new study finds that those who get a breakthrough Covid-19 infection after being fully vaccinated may acquire ‘super immunity’ from another infection.
The small study compared 26 vaccinated staff at Oregon Health & Science University who had breakthrough infections to people who were vaccinated but never got the coronavirus. The breakthrough group saw a surge in antibodies.
They have called for a fresh support package, similar to those deliver earlier in the pandemic, in order to stay afloat.
But a Government source told The Times it is ‘not in the same position financially’ and would have to be ‘incredible precise’ about the allocation of funding.
Some industry bodies have pushed for an increase in cash grants to mitigate against the losses businesses are expected to suffer over a normally busy festive period.
Others are understood to have urged Mr Sunak to revive the emergency rate of five per cent VAT for hospitality and tourism firms and to reinstate the 100 per cent business rates relief for retail companies.
Mr Sunak is said to be considering options including the fresh emergency VAT cut and additional cash boosts. The Chancellor is also considering what further help may be required if further restrictions are introduced.
Meanwhile it emerged the PM’s plan to get every adult boosted by the end of the year descended into chaotic disarray.
The pledge to jab 1milliom adults a day has still not been hit and it means 2.1million adults must receive a booster every day – including on Christmas Day.
Official figures show a daily record of 986,689 were vaccinated on Saturday, including 904,598 receiving booster jabs.
The number of confirmed cases of Omicron in England increased by 69 per cent on the previous day’s total – up 9,427 to 23,168, figures from the UKHSA showed today
Covid hospital admissions have spiked by more than a third in a week in Britain’s Omicron hotspot of London, official data shows
Boris Johnson’s pledge to get every adult a booster jab by New Year looks a bust with 26million still to go
Boris Johnson’s plan to get every adult boosted by the end of the year descended into chaotic disarray today despite Sajid Javid boasting of a record 900k jabs being administered.
The pledge to jab 1m adults a day has still not been hit, and it now means 2.1m adults must receive a booster every day – including on Christmas Day an Boxing Day – if the government has any hope of achieving its target.
Official figures show a daily record of 986,689 were vaccinated on Saturday, including 904,598 receiving booster jabs. Health Secretary Sajid Javid had previously said 906,656 received their vaccines, with more than 830,000 receiving boosters, but later on Sunday evening the figures were updated to include the higher numbers.
The new figures mean that more than 28million people in the UK have now received a booster jab, but there are still more than 26million people aged over 18 who are yet to have their third dose.
It means that now more than 2million adults need to be vaccinated every day for the PM to hit his target, including bank holidays Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Sajid Javid previously said 906,656 had their vaccines, with 830,000 getting boosters, but later on Sunday the figures were updated to include the higher numbers.
The figures mean more than 28million people in the UK have received a booster jab, but there are still more than 26million people aged over 18 who are yet to have one.
It means more than 2million adults need to be vaccinated every day for the PM to hit his target, including bank holidays Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
The booster crisis comes in tandem with wider Covid chaos in Downing Street over whether to lock down the country before Christmas.
Mr Johnson was under growing pressure not to impose restrictions that will ruin the festive break for the second year in a row.
Tory MPs last night said any attempt to toughen rules before Christmas will provoke letters seeking to oust Mr Johnson as party leader.
The PM is reportedly considering three scenarios to tackle the Omicron variant, including restrictions on mixing indoors in England, a curfew on pubs and restaurants and even an immediate lockdown.
And Mr Javid yesterday refused to rule out Covid measures coming into force before Christmas Day.
But ministers indicated they will not back new curbs. Rishi Sunak is understood to be arguing that they need to plot a clear route out of restrictions before they are imposed, while Liz Truss says she is ‘uncomfortable’ with the current curbs.
One Cabinet minister has even gone as far as to say they will resign if the PM introduced another full lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
And in a sign of the ever-growing threat of further restrictions, Mr Johnson, who has repeatedly insisted Christmas would not be cancelled, cleared his diary today in order to hold emergency meetings with scientists and his advisers, reports The Mirror.
Britain yesterday recorded 82,886 Covid cases, with the number of infections rising by 32,473, or 64.4 per cent, in seven days.
But it is lower than Saturday’s figure of 90,418. Some 45 deaths were recorded, a decrease of 66 from last week’s 111 and a percentage decrease of 59.5.
And cases of the Omicron variant rose by 50 per cent in just 24 hours to 37,101 as the UK Health Security Agency confirmed a further 12,133 cases.