England’s Freedom Day: A balancing act between business and security


COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions in England have risen, but with 65 percent of the adult population double-vaccinated, the UK government is lifting restrictions in England starting Monday to restore normalcy. The decision is divisive, but the alternative could mean a wave of business failures and job losses.

The staff at the Tabard Pub in Chiswick, West London, have grown accustomed to adapting the way they work to changes in rules and regulations at different stages of the pandemic.

“It was very difficult to close and reopen the pub … three times now,” said Victoria Uzdavinyte, deputy general manager. “We lost so much money because all the beers and groceries were out of date.

“Instead of just working in a busy bar, we work like a restaurant, with a host, a booking system and lots of measures to make customers and employees feel safe.”

Now that July 19th is firmly on the agenda to fully open up, her team can’t wait to attract the crowds again.

“We booked 100 people to occupy the entire beer garden,” she said.

It’s been a special stop / start year for the Chiswick Playhouse – a cozy theater that longs to play to a full house again.

“We run the ticket sales alone, we don’t get any private money. So if we only have half the capacity, the amount of money we can spend is halved,” says Sophie Kohl, assistant to the theater’s producer. She is also currently working on a new musical From here.

The theater company running the show was forced to rethink its finances in the short term when the social distancing policy lift was delayed by a month in June.

“After we paid the staff, then paid the performers, and then the whole behind the scenes thing, marketing, all of that, it took a massive hit,” she said.

Three nationwide lockdowns and widespread uncertainty have cost the UK economy a lot.

Some pubs in England still impose their own restrictions even though the mandatory rules were lifted on July 19th. / CGTN

Some pubs in England still impose their own restrictions even though the mandatory rules were lifted on July 19th. / CGTN

The Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said COVID-19 was the leading cause of the $ 348 billion drop in the value of UK goods and services last year.

Forecasters warn that failing to fully open the economy could cost more than $ 76 million a day.

“Profits in the entertainment sector are still well below pre-pandemic profits,” said Vicky Pryce, chief economic advisor for the CEBR. “Hospitality has suffered and the concern is that if they don’t have solid growth in the next few months, they will not be able to make up for all the losses they made during the period of closings.”

Major government intervention has meant a year of unprecedented Treasury spending – with the Bank of England printing money to pay for it. The real cost may not come until wage subsidies and business support programs end.

“Seeing what companies need to survive and not go under is an absolute priority because the environment is still quite fragile and we have seen what is happening on the export front – plus Brexit, which is causing uncertainty,” said Pryce.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty difficult time finding the right balance for the government.”

Because of this, many pubs, restaurants, and retailers maintain certain restrictions, from wearing masks to setting up social distancing zones to help customers and employees feel safe.

“There are concerns that the rebound we’ve seen for consumers over the past few months may fizzle out as people become more concerned about the likelihood of re-infection,” said Pryce.

“If that is the case, it will definitely slow recovery.”

The UK government hopes that an increase in consumer spending will get everything going. But it will be a long time before the economy is back to the way it was.

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