With thousands of restaurants, pubs and non-essential retailers being forced to close under the expansion of tougher Covid-19 restrictions across the country, business groups and unions reacted with dismay.
Industry leaders also called on the Government to increase support for businesses to avoid a widespread collapse in firms and jobs.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These restrictions are necessary. But they are another hammer blow for struggling parts of the economy like hospitality and retail.
“Without more support from the Government, jobs will be lost and businesses will close.
“Ministers must act quickly and provide the financial help hard-hit industries badly need. They can’t watch from the side lines as companies go the wall and redundancies mount.
“And they must help families too, by boosting sick pay to a real Living Wage so that people can afford to self-isolate and increasing universal credit.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “It is clear that it is going to be the longest winter in living memory for Britain’s pubs and brewers.
“Unless there is a greater package of financial support from the Government to secure our pubs and the brewers that supply them, a wave of business failures in the new year is inevitable.
“We desperately need the Prime Minister to step up to the plate and commit to an enhanced package of measure for pubs and brewers.
“If the Government acts now they can still secure pubs and jobs by giving locals in England the sort of support those in Wales and Scotland are getting. Without this the outlook is very bleak indeed.”
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: “The rapid rise in infections is alarming so it’s only right the Government is taking measures to bring the number of cases down to protect public health.
“However, with more areas moving into higher tiers even more businesses face insurmountable pressure after such a tough year.
“While some retailers and entertainment venues have already taken precautionary measures by deciding to close, many others will lose out from one of the busiest periods of the year which brings in billions of pounds.
“Tighter Covid restrictions have already been a huge setback for firms and this will be felt even more by those who have now spent much of the year under them. The extension of Government-backed business loans and the furlough scheme will provide some certainty and respite for those under new tiers.
“But the Government should revisit support in January to ensure businesses across the UK make it through beyond Spring. Efforts to speed up mass rapid testing and vaccine rollout will help reopen the economy safely, but it is clear challenges will continue well into next year.”
Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, added: “The short term outlook for many businesses is bleak.
“The Government should look to reinforce its support, boosting grants for the worst hit and those who have missed out so far. It would be a huge shame to see viable companies go under with a vaccine just round the corner.”