LONDON: Britain on Tuesday launched a £1.0 billion ($1.3 billion, 1.2 billion euro) aid package to help UK businesses hardest hit by the Omicron coronavirus variant over Christmas.
The plan will provide grants to firms in the hospitality and leisure sectors during what is normally their busiest time — and hand out statutory sick pay for small and medium sized businesses, the government said in a statement.
The hospitality sector has repeatedly called for state help in recent weeks, as soaring coronavirus infections spark staff absences and tumbling demand.
“We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.
“So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support.”
About 200,000 businesses will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 each per premises under the new scheme, which will be available in the coming weeks.
Another £100 million will be provided for local authorities to support other struggling businesses.
And the state will pump £30 million into its so-called culture recovery fund to support England’s cultural organisations over the winter.
“With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year,” added Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the statement.
“That’s why we’re taking immediate action to help with an extra £1 billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our statutory sick pay rebate scheme.
“I urge people across the country to please get boosted now to secure vital protection for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities.”