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Coronavirus in the UK: hospitality sector calls for government help, Premier League game postponed

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The Coronavirus is beginning to have real-term effects on the UK's leisure industry, as the outbreak is predicted to "get worse before it gets better".

The hospitality industry is among the sectors to be hardest hit, with operators reporting widespread hotel room cancellations and an estimated 7 per cent drop in sales in London bar and restaurants.

On 10 March, trade body UKhospitality called for "wide-ranging business support" to deal with the threat of COVID-19 – the strain of Coronavirus causing the outbreak.

"We have written to the Prime Minister highlighting the impact of COVID-19 already being felt businesses around the country," the body said in a statement.

"Hotel occupancy has fallen 15 per cent while eating and drinking out has declined by 7 per cent.

"Forward bookings across hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars have fallen by up to 50 per cent.

"We are calling on the PM to introduce a moratorium on business rates for a minimum of three months, extendable dependent on the extent of virus spread; and any quarantined area to have business rates annulled for the period of non-trading.

"We also call for a VAT cut for hospitality and tourism, to incentivise bookings, so that trade can resume as quickly as possible when the virus threat subsides."

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls added: “Hospitality businesses are on the front line, so to speak.

"There has been a significant impact on the sector. Bookings are down, footfall is down, and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better.

“This is now an emergency for our sector. If the government doesn’t act to mitigate the impact and give us support, businesses are in danger. This means cash flow becomes a problem, venues are under threat and jobs at risk.

“By the time the immediate threat of the virus has subsided it may be too late for some businesses. Support is needed and it is needed now.”

Another trade body, UKinbound – which represents over 400 tourism businesses – has also asked ministers for urgent COVID-19 support.

“This is a very stressful and worrying time for the UK tourism industry and travel and tourism worldwide," said Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound.

"A lot of our members have been massively impacted by COVID-19 and the real worry is that businesses could go under if this situation continues as there are minimal bookings for the normally busy spring and summer months.

"We are hoping that government will provide financial support for businesses that are currently struggling with cash flow and business payments, in order to tide them over until this crisis has abated.

As well as tourism and hospitality, the outbreak is beginning to affect other leisure sectors.

The Gym Group's health club in Poole has now reopened following a deep clean after a member tested positive for coronavirus.

Elsewhere, The Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal on 11 March has been postponed as a "precautionary measure", as several Arsenal players are in self-isolation.

The players took the measure after Evangelos Marinakis – the owner of Olympiakos Football Club – was diagnosed with the virus. Marinakis met a number of the Arsenal players when the club hosted the Greek side in a Europa League match two weeks ago.

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The coronavirus is beginning to have real-term effects on the UK's leisure industry, as the outbreak is predicted to "get worse before it gets better".