A leading pub chain has closed some of its busiest boozers "indefinitely" as the boss blasted the governments "pitiful" support amid rising Omicron cases across the country.
Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller Smith and Turner, publicly criticised the "mixed messages" from the government in the run-up to Christmas.
Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Witty has been urging people to prioritise social events "that really matter to them" as a record 93,000 Brits were infected with coronavirus on Friday.
The cases mean that tens of thousands of Brits will be facing isolation from their families this Christmas and the stark increase in cases has led to widespread cancellations for the hospitality industry during their busiest period.
Boris Johnson has been accused by critics of creating "lockdown by stealth" as millions stay home in an attempt to save their Christmas, The Sun reports.
Bosses say they have "no option" but to close their boozers after a "double whammy" of sick staff and customers staying away over concerns their festive plans could be destroyed by socialising in pubs and restaurants.
Following a week of declining sales, Mr Emeny said his pub chain has made the difficult decision to close down 20 of its busiest pubs for the foreseeable.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: "Operating a large number of units in central London, we're really in the eye of this hospitality challenge.
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"Being out last night in the centre, it was very, very quiet. The reality in London is that our sales are currently down between 60 and 80%.
"As a result, we are closing 20 of what would have been our busiest sites indefinitely."
Mr Emeny said the government's response to the struggles of the hospitality industry had been "pitiful".
He said: "I think the response has been pitiful and there's very little financial support for anybody at the moment.
"Engagement with the sector over the last three weeks has been very, very late – and very rushed."
He claimed the "mixed messages" from the government over the Omicron variant is "confusing customers" and causing a lot of "operational difficulties".
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"But clearly the government are being given scientific advice and are attempting to navigate this current crisis," he added.
"But the only way through this though, having given those mixed messages to customers, is to give financial support to the sector."
Mr Emeny added: "The country needs a vibrant hospitality sector coming out of this.
"My worry for everybody at the moment is those staff that aren't going to be working on Monday who have got families to feed over the Christmas period, who are working for companies who now have zero sales.
"Who is going to pay them? How are they going to pay their rent, and how are they going to live over the coming weeks and months?"
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