The horrifying cost of Boris Johnson’s six-month Covid clampdown was dramatically laid bare last night.

Business chiefs and hospitality groups issued a string of dire warnings over the impact of the restrictions, saying millions of jobs were now on the line.

They said the Prime Minister’s U-turn on his ‘get back to work’ message could spell doom for struggling high streets, with footfall plummeting and shops boarded up.

In a passionate intervention, a prominent entrepreneur said the prosperity of the nation was at stake. 

In a passionate intervention to Boris Johnson’s six-month Covid clampdown, Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret A Manger and Itsu, says the prosperity of the nation is now at stake

A woman wears a face masks as she stops to buy some food at a branch of Pret A Manger in Chelsea, London

Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret A Manger and Itsu, said: ‘The repercussions of this six months are going to be devastating to so many, to local councils, to industry, to people all over our country.

‘We have not begun to touch the seriousness of this. This talk of six months is criminal.’

Despite ballooning national debt, Rishi Sunak is preparing a multi-billion-pound ‘winter economy plan’ to try to protect jobs.

The Chancellor signalled the true extent of the crisis by cancelling plans for a full-scale Budget in November. Sources said he accepted the country could no longer make long-term financial decisions.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality (left) and Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (right)

Despite ballooning national debt, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is preparing a multi-billion-pound ‘winter economy plan’ to try to protect jobs

As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warned of the economic costs of Covid:

Hospitality groups said a quarter of pubs and restaurants could go bust this year;HMRC and Goldman Sachs were among employers abandoning their drives to get people back to the office;Pictures showed high streets boarded up as shops reacted to the clampdown;The travel industry faced fresh despair when Downing Street warned of the risk of booking half-term holidays;Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza are keeping two thirds of outlets shut;A major study warned countless patients were living with worsening heart disease, diabetes and mental health because of the lockdown;MPs demanded extra help for theatre and music venues;No 10 said a ban on household visits could be extended across large swathes of England;A mobile tracing app is finally being rolled out today – four months late;Matt Hancock’s target for half a million virus tests a day by the end of next month was under threat from equipment shortages;Scientific advisers suggested that students could be told to remain on campus over Christmas.

In a dramatic television address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Johnson announced he was abruptly dropping his call – made repeatedly since the end of lockdown – for workers to return to the office. He also told pubs and restaurants to shut their doors at 10pm, and doubled fines for not wearing a mask or failing to obey the rule of six.

He indicated the measures were likely to last for six months at least.

Mr Metcalfe led the backlash against the curbs on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, saying he did not know whether Itsu could survive the measures.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street, for a Cabinet meeting to be held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, ahead of MPs returning to Westminster after the summer recess on September 1

He added: ‘People who work in hotels, restaurants, takeaways and in coffee shops are devastated. A great many are closing down – we’re losing thousands upon thousands of jobs. 

‘How long can this continue, this vague “work from home”, “don’t go on public transport”? The ramifications of this are just enormous.’

Mr Metcalfe accused the Prime Minister of ‘sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense’.

He said: ‘To turn to an entire nation and say “stay at home for six months”, and to spout off Churchillian nonsense about we’ll make it through – it’s terribly unhelpful. It should be “we will review the situation each week, each hour”.’

Tory MP Desmond Swayne said the Government had made the wrong call, adding: ‘I am concerned the cure could be worse than the disease.’

Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, warned the clampdown could see the closure of many pubs. 

‘Pub-goers and publicans alike want to stop the spread of Covid, but this curfew is an arbitrary restriction that unfairly targets the hospitality sector and will have a devastating impact on pubs, jobs and communities,’ he added.

Rob Pitcher of Revolution Bars said: ‘It’s beyond belief that they have brought in the 10pm curfew with no evidence to back it up.’

Fashion mogul Sir Paul Smith warned the pandemic was proving devastating to his and other industries.

A former head of the civil service will today say Mr Johnson’s government has proved incapable of combating Covid.

Lord O’Donnell, a crossbench peer, will say in a lecture that ministers did not use adequate data and deferred too much to medical science at the expense of behavioural and economic experts. 

He will also allege there has been a lack of strong leadership and clear strategy. 

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