Plan B measures to be lifted: industry reacts

Richard Stuart-Turner
Thursday, January 20, 2022

Industry and business figures have reacted to the government’s announcement that England is set to fully return to Plan A measures next Thursday (27 January), with work from home measures already lifted.

Johnson announcing the lifting of Plan B measures yesterday
Johnson announcing the lifting of Plan B measures yesterday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday (19 January) that measures that were implemented last month due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant can now be lifted thanks to the success of the booster programme, which has seen more than 30.5 million boosters given in England.

The government said that while vaccinations remain a priority, the success of the vaccination programme so far means England is now able to cautiously return to Plan A.

“While we must continue to remain cautious, the data are showing that time and again this government got the toughest decisions right,” said Johnson.

“Today’s latest ONS data show clearly that infection levels are falling in England. And while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools – our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.”

With immediate effect as of yesterday, the government said it is no longer asking people to work from home if they can and said people should speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office.

And as of today, face coverings will no longer be advised in classrooms for both staff and pupils.

From Thursday 27 January, venues and events will no longer be required by law to use the NHS Covid Pass while face coverings will no longer be required by law in any setting.

Public health guidance will remain in place, however, suggesting individuals should continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, where people may come into contact with others that they do not normally meet.

The government warned, though, that the prevalence of Covid-19 is still high, with over 16,000 people in hospital in England with the infection, and as such, individuals, employers and local leaders are urged to act cautiously and consider the risk of Covid-19 when moving back to Plan A.

Legal requirements for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 to self-isolate are remaining in place for now but the government said it will set out a long-term strategy for living with Covid-19 “in due course”.


Reaction:

Charles Jarrold, CEO, BPIF

“We very much welcome the lifting of Plan B restrictions, it’s an important step in getting the economy back up and firing on all cylinders, which is so important to the sector. Companies are reporting many challenges – cost increases, supply chain complexities and labour shortages, which a boost to demand should help offset, at least to some degree.

“It’s likely that we’re now moving into the endemic phase with Covid-19, having to accept it’s not going away, but taking sensible steps to reduce the impact on individuals and businesses. Continued careful consideration of how to reduce the levels of cross infections does remain important, our BPIF HR and Health and Safety teams are continually supporting members with step-by-step guidance, templates, and advice to ensure organisations take the necessary steps to help protect their employees and business. Get in touch to see how we can help support.”


Paul Manning, managing director, Rapidity

“We’re absolutely delighted that Plan B is ending, in particular the government’s working from home guidance. Our business, like many print businesses particularly in and around London, is badly affected by permanent or sustained working from home.

“We do feel like print is somewhat a forgotten industry as whilst government policy has impacted on our business, there has been no financial support this time around whilst other sectors such as hospitality and retail continue to receive a multitude of financial packages. Therefore, regardless of what we personally think about what the government are doing, with no financial support from them we can only hope they will try and get people back to work as soon as possible, which they seem to be doing.”


Graeme Smith, chairman, IPIA and managing director, Cyan Group

“The decision by the government to repeal the Plan B restrictions will no doubt provide relief to the UK print industry. It will mean that marketing and event planning from February and March onwards will now be able to move forward with a lot more confidence – with the resulting flow of investment into all the print products associated with running them.

"The bottleneck of uncertainty has now been uncorked, and it is much needed to provide the economic stimulus our industry needs across its supply chain. For example, marketeers will now press the green button on promotional print runs, print business managers will now be able to move forward investment decisions into new equipment with confidence, consumables orders will rise again, and the print economy will hopefully return to a more normal level.

“There will no doubt continue to be a certain amount of disruption caused by team members needing to self-isolate and pressure on the system that will remain for some time, but overall it's a much more positive picture moving forward. We feel that the next positive step the government could make would be to expand the Omicron relief grant to core suppliers to the hospitality, events and leisure industries to assist with recovering lost revenues and the recovery of our manufacturing sector.

“We are continuing to consult closely with the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on this very issue and make the case for its expansion.”


Mike Cherry, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

“After two years of chopping and changing, small businesses right across England will be hoping that this marks the beginning of a final winding down of trading restrictions.

“Small firms and sole traders stand ready to spur our economic recovery from this recession as they did the last. After new import checks took effect this month, however, they are now staring down the barrel of a jobs tax hike, a dividend taxation increase, and business rates bills landing in April.

“The government should be looking at policies that will empower small businesses and start-ups to get our economy firing on all cylinders again. In an environment where inflation is surging, and the labour market is exceptionally tight, hiking an indiscriminate tax on job creation is not one of them.”


Matthew Fell, chief policy director, CBI

“It’s great news that Plan B is coming to an end and businesses will be hopeful that we are finally starting to turn the corner on Covid-19.

“There’s a vital need now for greater consistency in how we live with the virus in the longer term. Swinging back and forth between restrictions and normality has been damaging.

“The government must start to prioritise Covid infrastructure over interventions. That means relying more on free testing, vaccines and anti-virals.

“There’s also still a job to be done on repairing confidence and demand. Omicron has pushed back the recovery for some key sectors, like international travel and hospitality. The focus now must be on how we can grow the economy and stimulate investment.”

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