Businesses ramp up pressure on Boris Johnson for a way out of Plan B

·2-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson  (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (PA Wire)

Business leaders stepped up pressure on the Government to reduce the Covid isolation period from seven to five days to ease staff shortages and offset other “headwinds” such as high inflation.

The Federation of Small Businesses said ministers needed to give a “clear and consistent message as to when we might move out of Plan B and give small businesses confidence to plan ahead”.

London spokesman Matthew Jaffa said: “The headwinds of supply chain issues, high inflation and further taxation are playing on the minds of small businesses so government needs to consider cutting the isolation period from seven to five days if safe to do so.”

The Cabinet is said to be split over reducing the period of self-isolation for people who test positive, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps believed to support the move.

Clive Watson, chairman of The City Pub Group, said Boris Johnson should also use the scheduled January 26 review of Plan B measures to drop the working from home advice, which is starving central London of its usual daily supply of commuters.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m not a scientist but I think things look like they are starting to get better and we’ve got to start to learn to live with this virus and how we manage our lives going forward.

“The Plan B restrictions are being reviewed on January 26 and that’s a very good opportunity to modify those.

“For example, why people who work in hospitals or retail can go to work but office workers are exempted from going to work, so I think we need to look at that very quickly and start to withdraw those restrictions.”

He said trading for London-based hospitality businesses has been “very, very tough” since New Year’s Day.

Mr Zahawi said the UK Health Security Agency will investigate whether the isolation period can be reduced, saying on Sky: “It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others.

“But I would absolutely be driven by advice from the experts.”

MP Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, warned that if the Prime Minister tries to extend Plan B beyond January 26, the rebellion could be even larger than the 100 Conservatives who defied him over their introduction last month.

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