“However, the Government’s policy is not the same as the previous national restrictions and nor is the environment in which these restrictions are coming into force.
“Some businesses may be more prepared for working from home than was the case prior to previous restrictions, while the labour market enters these restrictions in a weaker state than in March and so do corporate balance sheets, including in the worst-affected sectors.”
The Government has already handed out more than £100billion in furlough payments, financial help for the self-employed and business loans. Overall, more than £350billion has been pumped into supporting the nation throughout the crisis.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised to businesses for the shutdown “nightmare” and, amid speculation it could be extended, said it would be no longer than a month.
In a pre-recorded speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, he said: “I want to apologise to all of you who are experiencing the frustrations and the nightmare of the Covid world.”
Mr Johnson thanked firms for their “heroic efforts” to look after staff, make premises Covid-safe and “complying with the kinds of diktats that I never believed we would have to impose which, I assure you, go completely against every free market instinct I possess”.
He added: “And believe me, we will end these autumn measures on December 2 when they expire.” Mr Johnson insisted the lockdown was necessary if England was to push the Covid-19 rate down and ease the strain on the NHS.
He praised businesses that switched production lines to make hand sanitiser gel, protective equipment and extra ventilators, saying: “It is thanks to British technical innovation that we are now in a far better position than we were during the first wave.”
Adding there was the prospect of a UK-led vaccine in the first quarter of next year, Mr Johnson said businesses would help drive the post-pandemic recovery. Pledging to “do whatever it takes” to help industry recover, he cited a Welsh business that set up a trampolining centre in a disused coal mine.
Mr Johnson said: “No matter how deep the hole you think you’re in, you can always bounce back. And that is what we will do together.”
CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said Mr Johnson’s commitment to backing British business “could not be more necessary or welcome”, adding: “It’s only through thriving enterprise that our economy will bounce back from this crisis.”
The Bank of England is expected to slash its economic growth forecasts today and pump in another £100billion of quantitative easing.