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Businesses back reopening plans despite calls for unlocking faster

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
Two-thirds of UK businesses are ready to operate at close to full capacity when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images
Two-thirds of UK businesses are ready to operate at close to full capacity when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images

The majority of UK businesses support the government's pace of easing of lockdown restrictions, new data revealed, even as Conservative MPs have pushed for an earlier resumption of activity such as international travel to boost aviation, travel and tourism industries.

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking research found that two-thirds of businesses are ready to operate at close to full capacity when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted on 12 April.

When asked whether their business would have preferred or benefitted from a different pace of easing, 58% said they preferred neither a faster nor slower easing of restrictions. 

However, a net balance of 34% said they would have preferred a faster route out of lockdown and just 9% said they would have preferred a slower easing of restrictions.

The majority of those questioned (66%) said they will be able to operate at near-full capacity (80%) or full capacity when restrictions for their sector are lifted.

Firms in the South East are most confident, with 70% ready to operate at 80% capacity or more once they are permitted to reopen. 

Companies in the North West and the East of England also showed high levels of confidence, with two-thirds (69% and 68% respectively) saying they could operate at close to full capacity. By contrast, less than half (47%) of Northern Irish firms said they will be able to operate at more than 80% capacity.

In terms of sectors, manufacturing is where the most businesses (73%) said they can operate at close to full capacity, followed by construction (68%), retail (66%) and services (64%).

WATCH: PM rules out COVID passes for shops and pubs

Paul Gordon, managing director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Following an extremely challenging 12 months for businesses everywhere, it’s encouraging to see firms’ optimism boosted by the imminent lifting of lockdown restrictions." 

"Despite these positive signs, however, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and the coming months will be crucial to the UK’s recovery," he added.

READ MORE: IMF upgrades UK growth forecasts

Meanwhile last week, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, said: "Ministers' monomaniacal focus on COVID cases is leaving us stuck with these roadmap dates, despite the fact that the vaccine has clearly broken the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths."

In the UK, more than 31 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and more than 5 million have received their second dose.

As per UK prime minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown, retailers and outdoor hospitality venues may reopen from 12 April in England. This was step two of his four-step plan.

Step three is meant to see international travel open up by 17 May at the earliest.

And while Johnson said on Monday he is “hopeful” this would happen, he added: “I do not wish to give hostages to fortune, or to underestimate the difficulties we are seeing in some of the destination countries that people might want to go to. We don’t want to see the virus reimported to this country."

Meanwhile, business chiefs have urged the government not to waste time on solidifying plans for a COVID-19 vaccine passport, following confirmation that they could be a possibility for reopening UK economy.

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