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Chamber urges caution as businesses look to reopen

Rob Johnston

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is advising businesses closed by lockdown to wait for detailed guidance before they reopen.

Speaking to the nation on Sunday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “anyone who can’t work from home should be actively encouraged to go to work”.

But the Chamber says businesses are still waiting to see new guidance on how they can operate safely.

Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “The Prime Minister’s comments appear to be aimed at businesses in manufacturing and construction, which have never been required to close but downed tools nevertheless.

“In some cases that was because they felt they couldn’t operate safely, in others because their supply chains collapsed.

“For example, we know of construction firms that can’t function because the builders’ merchants that supply them are closed.

“Reopening isn’t just a simple matter of telling people to go back to work, it’s more complicated than that.”

He added: “Businesses share the Prime Minister’s ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks.

“However, his comments have been widely interpreted as a call for businesses to resume operations immediately.

“We’re urging caution. The Government is about to update its guidance on social distancing in the workplace. Businesses need to see that guidance and consider how they can apply it.

“It’s imperative that companies have advice on what will need to change including clarity on the use of PPE.

“We’re also concerned about a growing divergence in approach between Westminster and Holyrood.

“The Scottish Government appears to be taking a more cautious view on lifting lockdown restrictions.

“That’s potentially a problem for businesses that operate on both sides of the border and for people who live on one side and work on other. We’d much prefer a consistent UK-wide approach.”

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