The extension of hospitality restrictions is “inevitable” regardless of whether England’s national lockdown is lifted as planned on 2 December, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls has said.

Despite the so-called sunset clause on the government’s proposed month-long lockdown, meaning it must come to an end in its original guise by the beginning of next month, Nicholls told MCA’s The Conversation that it can be amended and continued in a different guise, but whatever the outcome hospitality will be in de facto lockdown for months to come.

“We are not going to come out on 2 December in the same way that we did in July,” she said. “If the lockdown ends in December, we are likely to be going back into the tiered system, and you could see many more areas of the country under tier 3, which would effectively be a continuation of the hospitality lockdown.”

Given this bleak outlook for the sector, Nicholls advised operators to plan for tougher restrictions for “at least two to three months,” and prepare to be under tier 3-level restrictions until January.

Whilst she feels the Prime Minister will try and prevent a continuation of the upcoming national lockdown, Nicholls said that given the two-week time lag between cases and deaths, it’s likely that the country could be experiencing peak death rates by 2 December, making it “politically very difficult” to lift the measures.

Nicholls added that with confidence in government at an all-time low following the U-turn that was Saturday’s announcement, it’s now more important than ever that ministers put a long-term plan in place to allow businesses to plan beyond March.

“Alongside the government’s plan of stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives, we need them to stay focused on the economy and save businesses,” she said. “It’s going to be 2022 or 2023 before we recover to pre-pandemic levels of revenue, so we need government to start looking now at longer-term strategic plans for how we’re going to get back and what we’re going to need to recover.

“We need them to use this period of closure to get right some of the fundamentals that we know are necessary to let us live with the pandemic, because it’s going to be with us for a considerable period of time and we can’t just sit around waiting for a vaccine.”

“We need certainty that while we’ve got national restrictions in place for hospitality, we’ll have access to funding and support.”