United Kingdom

Just a quarter of businesses closed due to coronavirus believe they will be able to reopen in June

Only a quarter of business that have temporarily closed during the coronavirus critic plan to reopen their doors within the next month, dampening efforts to kickstart the economy, new figures reveal today.

Just nine per cent of businesses told the Office for National Statistics they would be ready to open within a fortnight, with a further 16 per cent saying they could be ready within four weeks.

Almost half of those polled in May said they did not know when they might open, piling pressure on the Government's economic plans.

Boris Johnson last month gave the go-ahead for non-essential retail to restart on June 15, as he attempted to bring the coronavirus-battered UK High Street back to life.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms have been open since Monday with strict social distancing guidelines.

The ONS figures, some of which may pre-date the May 25 announcement, show that 42 per cent of retailers would be able to reopen by the end of June.

But other businesses that have been shut up since March fear they will be closed for some considerable time to come, most notably in arts and recreation, IT, education and accommodation and food services, which have been hit by the collapse in tourism.

Of businesses with 250 employees or more, 21 per cent said they intend to restart trading again in the next two weeks compared with 14 per cent of businesses with fewer than 250 employees. 

The Prime Minister said that few countries around the world has done as much to put 'our arms around workers' last night

Mr Johnson used a rare appearance at the Downing Street daily press conference last night to warn workers that it was 'inevitable' there would be widespread job losses because of the coronavirus lockdown today.

But the Prime Minister said that few countries around the world has done as much to put 'our arms around workers' as he led the daily Downing Street press conference.

He pledged to follow the furlough and business loan schemes that have ploughed hundreds of billions of pounds into keeping firms afloat and preventing people being laid off.

He insisted that he would lead an 'activist and interventionist' Government that would seek to invest the UK back to health.

It came as a new warning came that tens of thousands of aerospace and aviation workers are set to lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

Paul Everitt, chief executive of industry body the ADS Group, said redundancies will be made in the coming weeks and months because of the collapse in demand for flights.

He told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee it was 'very difficult' to see demand return quickly, so airlines and other companies will be forced to restructure or 'resize'.

Mr Everitt told MPs that the Government's controversial decision to press ahead with its quarantine plans for people arriving in the UK would lead to a further period of uncertainty for the sectors his group represents.

The industry believed the right approach would be to put in place measures to minimise the risk of anyone getting on to an aircraft who might be affected by the virus, he said.

'Summer is incredibly important for airlines, so the fact that they are not able to sell tickets with confidence in July and August is a clear worry and will only mean the recovery will take longer and be more painful.'

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, told MPs that one in four manufacturers were planning to make redundancies in the next few months.

He voiced fears about the loss of skills in the industry, saying he had spoken to the Education Secretary about the need to tackle the issue.

Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, told the committee that the steel industry was in a 'difficult position' before the current crisis, with falling prices for its products and rising costs for raw materials.

UK steel companies also faced higher electricity charges and business rates than competitors in other countries such as Germany, he said.

'The Government needs to build a bridge to help us through this crisis. There is no point in the Government saving the steel sector from going out of business now, if it is not going to work with us and trade unions to develop a brighter and sustainable future.

'It is totally within the Government's gift to do that.'

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