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Calls for renewed business support follow UK’s first Omicron death

Houses of Parliament

Calls have been issued for renewed Government support for retail businesses after Prime Minister Boris Johnson re-issued “work at home” advice amid rising cases pf Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Johnson revealed that at least one Briton had died from the variant as he delivered new advice aimed at battling a “tidal wave” of anticipated cases as the country heads into the festive period.

But, despite an accelerated vaccination programme which will aim to deliver booster jabs to around a million people a day before the end of the year, business chief’s are seeking new fiscal measures to help businesses survive a period of expected disruption.

British Chambers of Commerce director Shevaun Haviland said retail and hospitality businesses are not being sufficiently supported and has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, demanding more.

Haviland has requested a return to charging a reduced 5% rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism businesses, 100% business rates relief for the retail sector, and grant funding to help the hardest hit firms.

Her official correspondence followed earlier comments from Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, who said: “The government must once again stand shoulder to shoulder with business and provide a package of support to ensure that we get through a challenging winter without serious damage to our economic recovery.”

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), suggested that the renewed COVID-19 measures imposed by government will "not have a major impact" on UK car dealers.

She said: "The majority of franchised dealers have maintained previously implemented measures to continue to protect colleagues and customers.

"While the work from home guidance can be applied to certain roles, the latest guidelines will not have a major impact on dealers.

"NFDA will continue to monitor the Government guidelines daily and keep our members up to date. If dealers have any questions, we encourage them to contact us."

The impact of the Omicron outbreak on car retail businesses ahead of Christmas could be determined when MPs vote on new ‘Plan B’ mitigation measures on Tuesday (December 14).

While masks are already required in retail spaces, one of the three votes in Parliament will be on the introduction of COVID passes.

Despite opposition expected from around 60 Tory MPs, all three votes are expected to pass.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC employment union, told the Guardian that job losses would result from a government failure to supply further fidscal support in the weeks ahead.

She said: “Requiring people to work from home over the busy Christmas period will hit jobs – unless ministers bring back furlough.

"Cleaners, receptionists, conference and banqueting staff and hospitality and retail workers will be short of work if people don’t come into offices."

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