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Now Freedom Day is delayed, business must be supported until restrictions are fully lifted

The Prime Minister may have dithered with an announcement on Freedom Day, though who can blame him – the data is far from conclusive, and in many ways unconvincing with Covid deaths flat for weeks now. 

But that hasn’t stopped the markets from trying to work out who the biggest casualties are likely to be from a delay to the final stage of the government’s roadmap, or business from demanding further support for those most affected.

On a day that began with the FTSE 100 hitting 7,188 points, the highest level since February 2020, shares in travel operators, restaurant and pub chains, and the wider hospitality industry took a battering. British Airways owner IAG led the fallers, with Rolls Royce, Whitbread, and Intercontinental Hotels Group also tumbling. 

Primark parent Associated British Foods, and events organiser Informa, were swept up in the sell-off too, and in the wider FTSE 250, Restaurant Group, JD Wetherspoon, Easyjet, and Wizz Air were also hit, a measure of how painful investors fear another four weeks of Covid measures could be to the economy.

Briefings from Treasury insiders that furlough will not be extended again will raise concerns that the Government could leave businesses to fend entirely for themselves this time. 

Opinion among businesses differs as to precisely what form any additional help should take but leaders warn of “a cliff edge” as state support tapers off. 

The hospitality industry is demanding an extension to the moratorium on rent collection by commercial landlords and further breathing space on business rates. 

The BCC wants to see cash grants and the Institute of Directors helpfully lists all the costs that companies face in the coming weeks, including quarterly rent payments on June 23.

But  there is universal agreement that the Government cannot sit back and do nothing.

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