First ministers of Wales and Scotland write to PM to confirm business support in face of Omicron variant

29 November 2021 by
First ministers of Wales and Scotland write to PM to confirm business support in face of Omicron variant

The first ministers of Wales and Scotland have written to the prime minister to confirm funding for business support schemes should "more interventionalist measures" be required in light of concerns over the new Omicron variant.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have called for a COBRA meeting as soon as possible and said: "We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionalist measures are required to respond to the public health situation.

"In our view, it would be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning.

"In particular, it is important for us to agree that if the conditions in a devolved nation were to require more significant interventions than in England, the agreed package of financial support would be available to that nation."

The letter also said an eight-day quarantine period and PCR test for UK arrivals was "now necessary" to prevent the spread of the variant.

The UK government has announced that from 4am on Tuesday face coverings will be compulsory in shops and on public transport – but not in hospitality – and arrivals into the country will need to take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.

Travel trade association UKinbound released figures today indicating its members expected international visitors to be down 75% in November and December, compared to 2019.

The survey, taken prior to the announcement of new restrictions, found that 89% of UK tour operators, accommodation providers and attractions said that for the two months, international arrivals and visitor numbers would be lower than 2019 figures.

Of these businesses, four in five said they expected numbers to be down over 75%, and on average, they expected revenue for 2021 to be down 93% compared to 2019.

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: "Prior to the announcement of the latest Omicron restrictions, the inbound tourism industry was already facing a tough winter… the latest restrictions have sent shockwaves through our industry. We will need to see what the implications are on travel and health, but inevitably fragile consumer confidence will be dented.

"We were seeing green shoots and our members were reporting an increase in enquiries for 2022, however cancellations for December and early next year are already starting to come through."

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