Struggling businesses “may simply not be there” when the economy reopens after lockdown unless they are given further support, the government has been warned.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it was “baffled and disappointed” that more assistance was not announced alongside latest restrictions in England and Scotland.
Britain’s beleaguered pub industry was among those facing further strain, saying “the road to recovery just got longer”.
Firms have been given billions of pounds in help from the furlough scheme – recently extended until the spring – and loans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
But after the announcement by the prime minister of a third lockdown in England, the government was urged to provide further support.
BCC director general Adam Marshall said businesses would understand why the prime minister “felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health”.
But he added: “They will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.
“Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty.”
He said after billions of pounds of support to help keep firms going, they “must not be allowed to fail now, when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel”.
“The financial support for businesses needs to be stepped up in line with the devastating restrictions being placed on them.
“Otherwise, many of these firms may simply not be there to power our recovery when we emerge once again.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “The road to recovery for the pub sector just got longer.
“Given the circumstances, a wave of business failures is imminent unless a greater package of financial support from the Government is given to secure pubs and the brewers that supply them.
“That means grants in line with those in the first lockdown and support beyond April when the business rates holiday, lower VAT rates and furlough scheme all end.”
Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “For companies in sectors like tourism and hospitality, the vaccine-led recovery still seems a long way off.
“Even for organisations that can operate remotely, the closure of schools and nurseries could cause significant staffing headaches.
“The Treasury must now bolster support for the worst affected sectors.
“In particular, it should seek to reinforce the discretionary grant scheme allocated through local authorities, which has helped to reach those who have fallen through the gaps.”
CBI director-general Tony Danker also called for more help for firms alongside “assurance that support will be there for as long as restrictions are in place so that they can stay the course rather than act precipitously”.