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Working from home guidance a "hammer blow" for retail and leisure ahead of Christmas

Lauretta Roberts
08 December 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed plans to introduce "Plan B" Covid restrictions, including a work from home directive, which has been labelled a "hammer blow" for retailers and leisure businesses.

As the Government takes measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus, Boris Johnson said he would be reintroducing working from home measures for businesses, where it is possible, which will hit footfall in town and city centres in particular, during the most important trading period of the year.

New West End Company CEO Jace Tyrrell said the organisation, which represents businesses on and around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, supported the recent re-introduction of face coverings in retail environments but called on the Government to consider further support for struggling high street businesses in light of the new restrictions.

“While our top priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues, and we fully support mandatory mask wearing in shops, a renewed ‘work from home’ order during the most important trading period of the year would be a hammer blow for our retail and leisure tenants. Many businesses have committed time and money in their Christmas plans in a bid to make up for last year's losses - vital investment that they won't be able to recoup.

"Our hope is that a balance can be struck between keeping everyone safe and supporting the high street in its time of need."

Jace Tyrrell, New West End Company

"The Government must provide immediate clarity on the implications of Plan B for the retail and hospitality industry, and whether additional financial support will be offered to struggling businesses. Our hope is that a balance can be struck between keeping everyone safe and supporting the high street in its time of need. Otherwise we risk yet another miserable Christmas for struggling businesses and their staff," Tyrrell said.

Businesses have until the end of the week to make preparations for the working from home directive, which comes into force on Monday 13 December. "We will reintroduce guidance to work from home - from Monday work from home if you can, go to work if you must, but work from home if you can," Johnson said.

Other measures introduced include the wearing of face coverings in all public indoor spaces from Friday including restaurants, theatres and cinemas. Face coverings can be removed for exercise and eating & drinking.

From this time next week, the NHS Covid pass will now also be mandatory for nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

The Prime Minister said: "The NHS Covid pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out.

"And having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.

"As we set out in Plan B, we will give businesses a week's notice, so this will come into force in a week's time, helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others."

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