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Wed 22nd Dec 2021 - Update: Two-week circuit breaker ‘to be imposed within days’, isolation period cut and Peter Borg-Neal
Two-week circuit breaker ‘to be imposed within days’: Prime minister Boris Johnson has declared that Christmas can definitely go ahead “cautiously” – but new restrictions could be unveiled in as little as 48 hours, throwing new year's party plans into jeopardy. A fortnight-long circuit-breaker lockdown may be imposed within days – even by Monday (27 December) – according to reports, which could restrict mass events, ban different households mixing indoors and hamper the hospitality sector by restricting pubs and restaurants to outdoor service only. Such a move would be similar to the “Step 2” restrictions of last winter's roadmap out of lockdown and would almost certainly require Johnson to recall parliament, a process that would take around two days. The threshold for introducing stricter rules beyond Christmas Day is if the number of daily covid hospitalisations in London rises above 400, the i paper reports. If the figure remains below that, disruption is expected to be minimal. It came as another 90,629 covid cases were recorded in 24 hours across the UK, along with 172 deaths. A further 15,363 infections with the Omicron variant have been confirmed, bringing the total to 60,508 – although the pace of spread looks potentially slower than initially feared. Covid cases have remained flat since last Friday (17 December) when they hit a peak of more than 93,000. MPs who were briefed on the latest information by the government's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty said there was still no clarity on the data that would justify new curbs. A Cabinet source told the Mail: “There is more data coming on Wednesday (22 December), so that should make hopefully the picture a bit clearer and decisions easier to make.” A survey by Ipsos MORI revealed a majority of Britons are now taking matters into their own hands to reduce their chances of catching coronavirus, with 58% saying they have avoided public transport or plan to do so, and 57% saying the same about going to pubs and restaurants, and social gatherings with friends and family.

Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar to feature Andy Laurillard: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The next video – which will be sent at 9am today (Wednesday, 22 December), – features Andy Laurillard, co-founder of Giggling Squid, who discusses how the crisis impacted the business for the better and its plans for the coming 12-18 months, which could see the company open a new site a month. Earlier this month, Premium subscribers received the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database showed the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases – the Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. To subscribe, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Isolation period for positive covid cases cut from ten to seven days for vaccinated people: Health bosses have announced those who test positive for covid can be released after seven days, rather than ten, providing they take two lateral flow tests at the end of that period. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said infected patients can take the tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period, which if negative means they can stop quarantining. However, unvaccinated adults who have come into contact with someone infected with covid must still self-isolate until ten days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus. The UKHSA said people who leave self-isolation on day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and to continue working from home. It comes after analysis by the UKHSA suggested a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had almost the same protective effect as a ten-day isolation period without testing. Studies have also demonstrated that lateral flow device tests are just as sensitive at detecting the Omicron variant as they are for Delta. Speaking to BBC News, health secretary Sajid Javid described the decision to reduce the self-isolation period from ten to seven days with two negative lateral flow tests as a “sensible way forward”.

Peter Borg-Neal – covid support package will cover just a fraction of £1m in lost takings: Oakman Group executive chairman Peter Borg-Neal has criticised the government's latest covid support package, saying it will cover just a fraction of almost £1m in lost takings at what should be the company’s busiest time of year. Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £1bn package of help for hospitality firms left struggling by a raft of cancellations as consumer confidence plummets in the face of rising cases of the Omicron variant. They include reimbursement for sick pay for eligible businesses, and one-off grants of up to £6,000 for firms able to prove they have been affected by Omicron. But Borg-Neal said it was already too little, too late, after weeks of government messaging that he said had “destroyed consumer confidence”. He told ITV News: “We've had a huge number of cancellations. Pretty much all of our corporate Christmas parties, loads of private ones. You're probably talking about losing sales of £20,000 to £25,000 per pub already with much more to come. And we still don't know about New Year's Eve.” Borg-Neal described the past few weeks as “very painful” and said the government rescue package was “pretty inadequate”. He said: “We are a business that will be able to ride this out. For lots of my colleagues in the industry this could be terminal. Businesses have been hanging on to get to Christmas in the hope of a typical good Christmas period and it's all been ruined because the messaging has destroyed consumer confidence and everyone's cancelled.”

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