No-one wanted to see new national restrictions and I understand that many pub landlords will be concerned about the weeks ahead. In light of the rapid spread of the virus across the country, however, I understand why they are necessary. Without further action, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives lost.
While the closure of pubs will be difficult to bear, the Government is providing significant support for hospitality businesses over the next few weeks. Every business forced to close will receive grants of up to £3,000 a month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant and the Government is providing local authorities with a further £1.1 billion to support businesses in their area.
I welcome that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until March in response to new national restrictions, and to give people and businesses across the whole United Kingdom the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter. Under the extension the government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, with employers paying employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. Flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing.
I am glad that the selling of takeaway food and alcohol is permitted. I note that the sale of takeaway alcohol is limited to delivery or pre-order collection, and should be done in accordance with other restrictions and licensing requirements.
At this time of uncertainty, I believe that all involved must also consider adjusting restrictions as new evidence emerges. I am glad that evidence continues to be collected on the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector and we must look forward to an easing of restrictions as soon as possible.