The Confederation for British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to work with business to best identify economy-critical factors to its roadmap out of the latest COVID-19 lockdown in England.
The business group’s calls come as the government prepares to publish an exit strategy in late February.
CBI’s Director-General, Tony Danker, said: “With health teams rightly in crisis management mode, we in business along with the economic ministries can use this time to plan for a successful re-opening of the economy when the moment is right to do so.”
In a letter to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the CBI has set out six elements that will help firms plan and prepare in advance of a lifting of restrictions. It says it will also write a letter to the devolved nations government’s next week.
Alongside the roadmap, CBI is also calling for “clear parameters for determining” what, and for how long, economic support measures will be available.
“The plans should develop in lockstep, to ensure that key support measures taper away, without a cliff-edge, ensuring that support is progressively targeted on those sectors that remain closed for longest,” CBI said.
But, the group which represents 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors in the UK, said that its not attempting to set a specific date for re-opening as we must rightly be driven by health data.
The six economy-critical elements that the CBI highlighted are:
Confirming once more what will be considered low, medium or high-risk economic activity, so that businesses can understand what will open sooner or later.
Deciding whether or not there will be a return to tiering, as part of a gradual re-opening. And if so, what will now be permitted under each tier as more people become vaccinated.
Identifying and understanding the conditions that need to be met before rolling back certain restrictions, and ultimately the need for social distancing.
Outlining how the vaccine will be deployed once the most vulnerable groups are inoculated, to reach the government’s target of all UK adults being offered a vaccine by Autumn.
Thinking how regular mass rapid testing in the community and workplaces could allow a wider, speedier reopening of the economy. It would set out what additional freedoms it might permit individuals and firms that commit to regular testing, as well as address the duration of asymptomatic testing so that workplaces and society are resilient to any new strains of the virus in the medium to long term.
Creating bespoke, detailed plans for the harder to open sectors of the economy, such as testing regimes for international travel, or the conditions for activities such as hospitality and live events to return.
On the vaccination strategy the CBI said that “there are strong arguments for phase 2 of the roll-out” that “maximises” the chances of the economy reopening in a safe manner. This includes prioritising key enablers like “schools, transport, and other key public services.”
The director general said that prime minister Boris Johnsons “initial parameters for reopening” the country was “a big help” for businesses.
Danker added: “Businesses are currently completely in the dark when planning for the weeks and months ahead and this is hindering investment. We can provide more clarity and do the prep work now to enable them to plan for reopening and growth.
“It’s clear that we will be entering a new normal even post-vaccination. We will have new workplace, testing and economic realities to live with.
“We’ve all learnt a lot in 2020 about what reopening looks like so let’s move now to a plan for 2021 that is detailed, practical and instils confidence.”
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