JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has said the country seems to be heading towards a “lockdown by stealth” and warned of a potential hit to profits.
The pub company warned its first half results may be impacted by an uncertain market, with consumers put off from pub trips after headlines about the Omicron Covid variants and fresh plan B restrictions.
It warned its results may be loss-making or marginally profitable and said uncertainty make it hard to make predictions of sales and profits.
“The repeated warnings and calls for restrictions, mainly from SAGE members and academics, combined with arbitrary changes of direction from the Government, invariably at short notice, affect customer sentiment and trade,” Tim Martin said, in an update on Monday.
“In effect, the country appears to be heading towards a lockdown by stealth,” he added.
Pubs and bars have pleaded for new support measures to help the sector, which is being hit with cancellations at its most profitable time of year.
The chairman also questioned the alarm surrounding the variant and pointed to comments from Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association. The doctor, who discovered the variant, called it a “mild disease”.
However, health secretary Sajid Javid has warned the variant is spreading at a rate “that we’ve never seen before”.
London has reported a far higher proportion of Omicron cases than the rest of the country, with Boris Johnson stating the new variant will make up the majority of infections by Tuesday.
Pub boss Tim Martin slammed the government for “creating an entirely different and more frightening impression of the variant, which appears to be at odds with the South African experience.”
The UK government has set a new target for booster jabs – which are thought to offer strong protection against the new variant – and has called in the army to help jab Brits.
Speaking at a visit to a London vaccination clinic, the Prime Minister urged the public to “set on one side” the idea that “this is somehow a milder version of the virus.”
He urged the public to instead “just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population.”
“Sadly yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” Johnson added.