Published: 17:01, 22 February 2021
| Updated: 17:07, 22 February 2021
Business chiefs have welcomed the Prime Minister's roadmap to lifting the lockdown - but warned "thousands of firms and millions of jobs still hang by a thread".
Boris Johnson told the Commons this afternoon of a series of steps the government planned to take to re-open shops and hospitality.
They will take place in a series of gradual phases with five-week gaps between each - and reliant on both infection rates continuing to fall and the vaccination programme continuing to prove a success.
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce said: "It is helpful that many businesses across Kent can now see a path to restart and recovery.
"Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
"Even with the Prime Minister’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs across the UK still hang by a thread.
“Many hard-hit businesses simply don’t have the cash reserves needed to hold out several more months before they are allowed to reopen.
“Businesses will hold the Prime Minister to his pledge to support firms for the duration of the pandemic, as this gruelling marathon nears its end. Businesses have haemorrhaged billions of pounds over the past year and need action now.
“All the key support schemes for business should be extended – through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 – to ensure that as many viable firms as possible can make it to the finish line and recover.
“It is also critical that alongside the pace of the vaccination programme, workplace testing is expanded to businesses of all sizes and continued for as long as is necessary – to help keep our companies and communities open over the months ahead."