Britain Offers $1.3 Billion in Aid to Hospitality and Leisure Sector
The move comes as businesses have voluntarily closed their doors, either as a precaution against the Omicron variant or because too many staff members are sick to operate.
The British government has responded to pleas for help from bars, restaurants and leisure businesses amid a surge in Omicron cases that has led to a wave of cancellations, staff shortages and closures.
The Treasury said on Tuesday it would provide a package of grants and tax relief amounting to ?1 billion ($1.3 billion).
“We recognize that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time,” Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a statement.
About 200,000 hospitality and leisure businesses will be eligible for a grant of up to ?6,000 per site. The government will also cover the cost of legally required sick pay for small and midsize businesses and is topping up a culture fund for organizations including theaters, orchestras and museums, with another ?30 million.
The Treasury had been pulling back on pandemic-related support measures, with some of the largest programs, including the furlough program, ending in September. But late last week London declared a “major incident” because of the spread of Omicron. Across the capital bookshops, gyms, pubs and restaurants have voluntarily closed their doors, either as a precaution against the virus or because too many staff members are sick to operate.
The government said it was providing “generous grants” which are equivalent to the monthly amount made available earlier in the year when the businesses were legally forced to close.