January 26, 2022

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Over 80% of UK firms unable to cope if lockdown lasts six months

Only 16% of businesses in South West England believe they can cope if the coronavirus lockdown lasts for six months, according to data from Business West Chambers of Commerce (BWCC).

The data, from a survey of 1,100 firms in the region conducted by BWCC, outlines the potential effects that long-term restrictions would have on UK businesses.

“This is a stark reminder of the potential depth of this crisis, with the damage to business risking being cumulatively greater the longer the crisis continues,” said Phil Smith, the managing director of BWCC, which is one of the UK’s largest regional business groups.

Some 55% of firms surveyed believe they would be able to cope with a three-month lockdown, but that number falls starkly to only 16% in the case of a six-month lockdown.

READ MORE: European stocks fall as investors assess stark impact of crisis

If the lockdown were to last 12 months, only 10% of businesses in the region believe they could survive.

However, almost 40% of firms said they did not have concerns about their current financial position, suggesting that many businesses have been able to weather the impact of the pandemic thus far.

But 88% said they were now concerned about their future financial position.

“Our survey spells out just how hard many firms are being hit — the impact of the coronavirus is far worse than the financial crisis of 2008 or any recession we can remember,” said Smith.

READ MORE: Euro slips as data points to historic crash in eurozone economy

“These are critical weeks for the economy and for the fate of many firms. We are hearing from the coalface stories of firms, built up by individuals over decades, now looking into the abyss.”

Some 37% of the firms surveyed said they would either be taking, or considering taking, further measures to reduce the costs of labour on their businesses.

The findings from the survey suggest that “uncertainty and lack of clarity” from the government could be exacerbating panic from firms about their respective futures.

Britain is currently in its fifth week of lockdown, which is having a dramatic effect on businesses, jobs, and the economy. Latest figures show another 759 people have died from coronavirus in UK hospitals, bringing the total number of deaths to 18,100.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK economy suffers record blow ‘with worse to come’

It is unclear when the UK will exit the lockdown and what the strategy on easing restrictions will look like. At the government’s daily press conference on Wednesday (23 April), the UK government’s chief medical adviser said that some form of social restrictions will remain in place for a year.

He said that it was “wholly unrealistic” to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon and “this disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to disappear.

“So we have to accept that we are working with a disease that we are going to be with globally… for the foreseeable future.”

On Thursday, data provider IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) released the latest flash figures from their monthly UK purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey. It showed that the UK economy has suffered its worst month in decades as the coronavirus crisis has wreaked havoc for millions of firms.

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