As of today – Thursday, Feb 24 – all COVID regulations, including those that require people to self-isolate if they test positive, have been scrapped. Laws are being replaced by guidance that focuses on ‘personal responsibility’ and stresses people should take care not to infect others.
From April 1, the majority of households will no longer be eligible for free lateral flow test kits. However, the elderly and those classified as vulnerable, will be able to order free tests.
While Boris Johnson has stressed that the virus is not ‘going away’; the efforts of the past two years have enabled us to protect ourselves and finally restore our liberties in full. In this week’s blog, we’re exploring what ‘living with COVID-19’ will mean for people and businesses.
While the pandemic is not over, recent innovations in medical science have enabled a return to normality. The vaccination programme is at the heart of the Government’s approach to living with the virus and has been key in allowing the gradual removal of restrictions on every day life.
More than 91 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 85 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 66 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The removal of COVID restrictions is a positive development for retail and the high street in general. The lifting of the legal requirement to self-isolate may further speed the return to a more normal experience for customers, employees and businesses.
Certain measures will likely continue, for example, it’s unlikely that shops will remove the perspex screens just yet because they are largely unobtrusive and may be needed in the future. Keeping small precautions in place will hopefully encourage hesitant consumers back to the high street, secure in the knowledge that shopping is a safe activity and one to be enjoyed.
Moving beyond COVID restrictions marks an important milestone in the road to recovery for pubs and restaurants. Self-isolation had a significant impact on venues; businesses were often forced to close if key staff members had contracted the virus.
From today, the legal requirement to isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 has ended – this comes as a welcome relief for businesses across the UK. Over the past two years, the industry has proven that its venues are safe for staff and consumers and that, when allowed to trade without restrictions, it can be a major driver of economic growth and recovery.
The Prime Minister refused to rule out reintroducing restrictions in the face of a new variant in the future. Mr Johnson also suggested that the UK could “learn” from Germany, where people are “much more disciplined about not going to work” if they are sick.
Vaccination will also continue into the future with the UK securing supplies of new bivalent vaccines currently in trials. This combines a booster designed to tackle the Omicron variant of the virus with its original COVID-19 vaccine; thus fighting multiple variants with one jab.
Experts have suggested that recovery to pre-COVID trading levels will take several years, but we cannot lose sight of the short term role that the Government must continue to play in supporting high streets. With a VAT & Business rates relief remaining a key ask, the Chancellor’s March budget will determine the survival of many SME, as businesses embark on the road to recovery.
This is also an opportunity for the Government to give a helping hand to the retail and hospitality sector by ensuring that the messaging and directives to the general public are clear and unambiguous. By doing this there is a better chance that consumer confidence in high streets will return and make 2022 the real year of revival for Britain’s high streets.
At Targetfollow, we recognise that 75% of all retail sales still occur in shops, and strongly believe that this percentage could increase with adequate support. Seeking innovative retail, hospitality and leisure offerings should be at the core of every asset manager’s plan for 2022. The amalgamation of technology and creativity will drive success as we emerge from the pandemic.