The delay to the promised full reopening of the economy and final lifting of lockdown restrictions in England – planned for next week and now postponed to give the government chance to outrun the highly infectious Delta Covid variant – was greeted with a fair few boos and hisses, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
The news was a particular blow for millions looking forward to finally picking up their social life again, and for workers who are compelled to wear facemasks all day long because of the nature of their jobs, but it was even worse for businesses in sectors such as hospitality. They expected to be crossing the pandemic finish line on Monday but instead what they face now is a potential £3bn hit to revenues, plus higher furlough and business rates costs.
The postponed full reopening is unlikely to make much difference to the broader economic rebound this year, but coming at the point when many businesses are announcing their plans for future working arrangements, it could reignite the argument about pandemic winners and losers. Depending on the work you do, you might have spent the past 15 months working from home (WFH), squeezing more hours from each working day and saving on commuting and other costs. But not everyone had that choice: their jobs, say in frontline health or care professions, required them to present themselves in their workplace and put themselves at risk of catching the virus.