Biden Omicron Speech Live: Latest Updates

The UK government has said it will provide a package of grants and other relief worth £ 1bn ($ 1.3bn) to hospitality and leisure businesses because an increase in the variant Omicron coronavirus is causing cancellations, staff shortages and closures.CreditCredit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The UK government has responded to calls for help from bars, restaurants and leisure businesses amid an increase in Omicron cases which has led to a wave of cancellations, staff shortages and closings.

The Treasury said on Tuesday it would provide a package of grants and other relief amounting to 1 billion pounds ($ 1.3 billion).

“We recognize that the spread of the Omicron variant means that companies in the hospitality and leisure industries face enormous uncertainty at a crucial time,” Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a statement. The holiday season is crucial for the hospitality industry and is often described as the “golden quarter,” when a substantial portion of the profits are made between Halloween and New Years Eve.

Around 200,000 hospitality and leisure businesses will be eligible for a grant of up to £ 6,000 per site. The government will also cover the cost of legally required sickness benefits for small and medium-sized businesses and supplement a cultural fund for organizations such as theaters, orchestras and museums with an additional £ 30million.

The Treasury had withdrawn support measures related to the pandemic, some of the most important programs, including the holiday program, ending in September. Tuesday’s announcement was the first major provision of pandemic-specific support since March. The government’s most recent budget plans have attempted to divert the country to a post-pandemic economy, with spending focused on education, the national health service and professional skills.

But at the end of last week, London declared a “major incident”Because of the spread of Omicron. Across the capital, bookstores, gymnasiums, pubs and restaurants have voluntarily closed their doors, either as a precaution against the virus, or because too many staff members are sick to operate. Last weekend, half of London’s West End theaters had to cancel performances.

The government said it was offering “generous grants” equivalent to the monthly amount made available earlier in the year when businesses were legally forced to shut down.

As of Monday, there were more than 45,000 confirmed cases of Omicron in Britain, but the actual number would be much higher. Last week there was a 60 percent increase in the total number of Covid cases. People are required to self-isolate for 10 days, which has left businesses and hospitals understaffed.

The government has not demanded the closure of hotel businesses, but new measures in England, such as asking people to work from home and requiring Covid passes for major events, have resulted in Christmas holiday cancellations and fewer people socializing outside their home. England’s chief medical officer last week urged people to only attend events that ‘really matter’ to them.

The subsidies have been widely welcomed by the hospitality industry. Kate Nicholls, managing director of UKHospitality, a business group, said it was a “generous package”. It provides “an immediate emergency cash injection for companies which, through no fault of their own, have seen their most precious negotiating period wiped out,” she added in a statement.

But with government ministers in tense talks As to whether more restrictions will be needed at Christmas, there are already fears that the subsidies will not be sufficient.

“While these measures are a positive starting point, if restrictions persist or are further tightened, we would need a broader set of support,” Shevaun Haviland, chief executive of UK Chambers of Commerce, said in a statement. .

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