Boris Johnson's delay to lockdown easing will take a wrecking ball to the economic recovery, according to ailing businesses braced for yet more hardship.
The Prime Minister today announced he is 'squeezing the brake pedal' on lifting the coronavirus restrictions still throttling some sectors of UK plc.
He also extended the compulsory wearing of face masks to most indoor public spaces, including museums in places of worship.
After the infection rate doubled in July, ministers and scientists are increasingly weary of a second onslaught of the virus, which is seeing a resurgence in several other countries.
But business which have been shuttered and starved of income during the pandemic have warned the government's sudden decision will take a 'hammer blow' to the economy.
The British Chamber of Commerce said the halt to lockdown loosening would be a blow to firms trying to get back on their feet.
And industry leaders from the beleaguered hospitality trade branded it 'devastating' for pubs, restaurants and holiday resorts across Britain.
Mr Johnson's announcement also coincided with a 65-point slump in the FTSE as investor confidence reeled from the uncertainty.
Speaking from Downing Street on Friday, Mr Johnson stressed the need for caution - in a striking contrast from his optimism earlier this month that normal life would resume by Christmas.
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