BUSINESS leaders have branded the Government’s boosted support package for areas in a high Covid alert level as a “step in the right direction” for Essex.

Piers Baker, owner of the Sun Inn, in Dedham, and Church Street Tavern, in Colchester, said Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s boosted Job Support Scheme would “ease fears” felt by many staff and businesses.

Last week Mr Baker revealed swathes of customers cancelled within minutes of the Government confirming Essex will face Tier 2 restrictions.

He said he had been keeping both restaurants open purely to keep his staff employed.

“It could have gone further by removing the requirement for businesses to also have to pay employer national insurance,” he said.

“This is because the curfew and Tier 2 restrictions have meant we have suffered a 70 per cent drop in sales.

“Will this and grants be enough? We will have to wait and see.

“It certainly will be too late for some businesses - unless it can be backdated - and it is also hoped it feeds down to our supply chains.

“The best and quickest way out of this is to ease the restrictions for hospitality given the levels of infection occurring within hospitality are continually around three and four per cent of the total.”

David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chamber of Commerce, described the Chancellor’s package as a “welcome sight”.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction and a very welcome sight for the hospitality sector - one of the groups which has been affected the most by the pandemic,” he said.

“There are places in the county, such as in Colchester and in Chelmsford, which have been affected quite badly by the new restrictions.

“I heard reports from one premises which has seen a reduction of 80 per cent in the number of people coming in.”

He added: “We have been meeting with Essex County Council, businesses and other organisations and we know the county council has been lobbying the Government and we support them in that.

“These kind of measures are what we want to see more of.

“It is important the Government does continue to review its support and make adjustments if necessary.

“We do await to see the impact this support will have.”