ngland’s coronavirus restrictions could finally be lifted by June 21 as part of a four-stage plan, Boris Johnson has announced as he declared “the end really is in sight”.
The Prime Minister told MPs the approach was “cautious but also irreversible”, with the impact of the vaccination programme replacing the need for lockdown measures.
He said a “wretched year would give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better”.
Scroll down for live reaction to the PM’s exit plan from across industry and the economy.
The FTSE 100 came within a whisker of ending the day in the green after a late rally in hospitality and leisure stocks on the back of the PM’s roadmap.
It closed 11.78 points, or 0.18%, lower at 6,612.24 at the end of play.
The pound continued its rally, increased by 0.48% versus the US dollar to 1.408 and up 0.15% against the euro at 1.158.
The price of oil rebounded from last Friday’s lows as continued supply concerns outweighed any worries about demand. The price of Brent crude oil increased by 2.67% to 64.59 dollars per barrel.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were IAG, up 12.35p at 178.1p, Rolls-Royce, up 6.79p at 105.45p, Informa, up 27.6p at 536.6p, and Compass, up 60p at 1,486p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado, down 158p at 2,401p, Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, down 79p at 1,267p, Just Eat Takeaway, down 342p at 7,166p, and Smith & Nephew, down 58.5p at 1,415p.
PUBS: Al-fresco April opening ‘not viable’ – but end to Scotch Egg nonsense welcomed
Pub chiefs warned that it will be “very difficult, if not impossible” to trade profitably when sites can open in April to serve seated customers outdoors.
From May 17 at the earliest, two households or a group of six will be able to meet indoors in a pub or hospitality venue.
Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: “We understand there needs to be a sensible easing out of lockdown, but are disappointed not to be able to open alongside non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers.
“Opening pub gardens in April simply isn’t viable so many pubs will have to remain closed and, with a phased reopening from May, next week’s Budget needs to bring positive news as we continue to burn tens of millions of pounds in cash every month.”
Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame pub group, warned that large portion of its estate of more-than-300 pubs will stay shut through April.
“With the April measures, we can open between a third and a half of our pubs, which obviously is not ideal. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for pubs to be profitable like that but is still progress.
Clive Watson, founder and executive chairman of City Pub Group, said: “April would have been preferable for indoor opening but we understand the caution and are now at least in a position where we can now plan.
“It was better than I expected to be perfectly honest and am particularly glad that they’ve canned the nonsense about scotch eggs and curfews.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “This delay in reopening will make the job of survival all the more difficult for businesses only just clinging onto existence. It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay that they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive.”
Hair salons still need support to help with immediate cashflow crisis
Hair salons could start welcoming customers back from April 12 under the government’s latest plan, with the industry welcoming a clear date to work towards reopening.
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Hair & Beauty Federation, welcomed the Prime Minister’s reassurance that the Government will continue to do whatever it takes to support the people and businesses through the financial impacts of the pandemic.
Lambert added: “However, 12th April is still seven more weeks without being able to trade but still having to pay the overheads. So we still need a specific grant to support our sector through the immediate cashflow crisis to the point where we can reopen.”
Pub chain boss: ‘My head hurts, my heart aches’
Loungers chairman Alex Reilley tweeted: “My head hurts and my heart aches – today was the day Boris Johnson condemned thousands of hospitality businesses to death. Hopes and dreams crushed, livelihoods destroyed, and jobs lost. Seemingly it’s an acceptable sacrifice of a sector 10 Downing Street has always seen as second class.”
Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said “It’s disappointing today’s announcement was made without any indication of what further support will be provided for pubs to get them through this crisis.
“The chancellor must announce this as soon as possible and before the Budget and it must be adequate or there will be many publicans who just won’t be able to continue racking up debts and pubs will start to close.”
Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “Our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night-time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”
GYMS: A “positive step” but relief still needed
Neil Randall, boss of gym franchise Anytime Fitness which has more than 165 UK outlets, has become one of the first gym chain bosses to comment on the roadmap.
He said: “Today’s announcement of the Government’s road map for reopening is a positive step and we acknowledge that leisure and gym facilities been given next priority after education and outdoor sport.
“However, we urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide a comprehensive relief package for our sector which was endured over eight months of closure in the past twelve months.
“At a time where we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the ongoing success of the vaccination programme, we have a duty to play our part in supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of the UK. “
LONDON ECONOMY: Mass training call to repair damage
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, said:
“Businesses across the capital will welcome clearer parameters for unlocking decisions, but will be looking ahead to what comes after the initial move to reopen schools.
“Although there are kernels of good news for some sectors, the Government must continue to provide urgent financial support to those that will be last to open. That includes extending business rates and VAT relief at the Budget.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and many more will need access to new skill sets in the months and years ahead.
“The Government must urgently bring forward a plan to help re-skill those affected, so that when the worst of the pandemic is over, the country can recover at pace.”
CINEMAS: “Disappointing” end date for big screen
The Prime Minister said that cinemas are to re-open no earlier than May 17 under the roadmap plans.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told the Standard that the trade body is “disappointed” by the long lead time.
He said: “Given the exemplary record of cinemas in delivering a safe big screen experience before this latest lockdown, we are disappointed not to have an earlier opening date.”
But the trade body chief said that it is nevertheless “good to have some confirmation” of an opening date, and that UKCA “looks forward to similar announcements across the rest of the UK”.
PROPERTY: A steadying of the ship
James Forrester , MD of Barrows and Forrester, James Forrester: “Welcome news for the property market which has been running on the artificially fuelled demand of a stamp duty reprieve.
“With this due to end in March, there was a degree of uncertainty around the future of the market and whether we would see property prices nosedive as a result.
“With normality now starting to return, this is unlikely to materialise and while the market will simmer to a more measured level of activity in the wake of the stamp duty holiday, this will be far from the crash that many have predicted.”
Hugh Wade-Jones , MD of Enness Global Mortgages: “A clear plan of action will not only help steady the ship of the domestic market, but we should see foreign buyer interest in the UK market start to climb once again.
“While foreign buyer demand across the UK’s high-end market, in particular, has remained steady, travel restrictions have dampened appetites to an extent.
“However, with a more concrete view of when normality will return and an increase in stamp duty rates for foreign buyers on the horizon, we expect there will now be a mad scramble for prime UK property which will cause property values to climb as we head towards the spring.”
FTSE and currency markets react to road-map plan
The market response to the PM’s announcement was positive, if muted, with much of the ‘road map’ briefed across the weekend and morning newspapers.
The FTSE 100 recovered most of the day’s previous losses to hit 6615.55, down 8.47p or 0.16% since open.
The pound continued is ascent against the dollar, reaching $1.4051 dollars, a near three-year high.
New West End Company says government support for businesses must continue
The New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in shopping areas such as Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, has commented on the latest lockdown exit plan.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of NWEC, said: “Today’s announcement promotes a careful and considered reopening that avoids businesses having to close their doors once again, so we fully support a reopening plan that is incremental, but irreversible. While it is understandable that leisure businesses will reopen at a slower rate than non-essential shops, the West End – as with the thousands of high streets across the UK – is a carefully managed ecosystem of retail and leisure, so we must help restaurants, bars, cafés and pubs weather the health and economic impact of the pandemic.”
Tyrrell added: “Along with reopening, it is imperative that the Government maintains continued financial support. With the budget in a matter of days, we look to the Chancellor to continue providing vital working capital by continuing the current business rates relief until fundamental reform can be achieved.”
The organisation is also urging the Treasury to introduce relief for empty properties. Read HERE for more on why landlords want to put an end to business rates on empty shops.