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Delaying lockdown easing could have a "critical impact" on already struggling businesses and cost UK hospitality £3bn in lost sales, industry groups say.

The government is expected to say that current coronavirus rules will remain in place for another four weeks after the planned 21 June unlocking.

Capacity limits will remain in pubs and cinemas and nightclubs will stay shut.

Junior Health Minister Ed Argar said he expected there to be more aid to help businesses cope.

'Treading water'
Kate Harl said her restaurant, the Bean Inn in St Ives, Cornwall, would be operating at a "greatly reduced capacity" due to the delay and her ability to earn would be "severely restricted".

"For us the number of covers that we will be doing each night will be down by about 40%," she told the BBC's Today programme.

"It feels like we're treading water at the moment. We're not able to progress and make a decent profit. We're not at risk of going under, but it's very very difficult and challenging to go forward."

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Ministers are concerned about the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, now the most prevalent in the UK, which is up to 60 times more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent.

UK Hospitality, which represents pubs, bars and restaurants, said it recognised the government had a balance to strike, but it said many businesses were already deeply in debt and called for greater levels of government support.

A restaurant
image captionMany restaurants are currently operating at a reduced capacity
"Even now, with partial reopening, sector sales remain down 42% and 300,000 jobs remain protected by furlough," said boss Kate Nicholls.

"A one-month delay to restrictions lifting would cost the sector around £3bn in sales - but would also have a knock-on impact on bookings throughout the summer and into the autumn."

'Huge impact'
The Night Time Industries Association, which represents nightclubs among other venues, said businesses had been waiting to open for more than 15 months and many had made financial commitments ahead of 21 June.

It said 54% of businesses it surveyed had ordered stock, 73% had called in staff and 60% had sold tickets. The trade group says it will legally challenge any delay, arguing that levels of mortality, hospitalisation and infection are still relatively low.

"To delay would have a huge impact on the sector, losing many businesses [and] livelihoods culminating in further loss of confidence in the sector," said chief executive Michael Kill.

"We will see many more illegal unregulated events take the place of businesses that are licensed and regulated across the country as people express their frustration," he added.

Government support
The Treasury has said eligible businesses will continue to benefit from business rates relief, VAT reduction and the Recovery Loan Scheme. The furlough scheme and support for the self-employed is in place until September.

But business groups want the chancellor to go further.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said business support measures should reflect the level of restrictions announced and remain in place until the economy is able to reopen fully.

"We would be calling for the government to provide further cash grants, at least equivalent to levels provided during the first lockdown, and to delay the tapering of government payments into the furlough scheme, planned for the start of July," said BCC co-executive director Claire Walker.

"The government should also look at extending the trade credit reinsurance scheme beyond the end of June to minimise possible disruptions in insurance coverage."

Junior Health Minister Ed Argar told Sky News: "I know that when [the prime minister] addresses his decision, sets out what he intends to do around the easing on the 21st, he will address those points as well.

"He is very mindful of the need for businesses and others to get the support they need if they continue to be locked down or unable to open."

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