Covid restrictions must not be imposed “at the cost of business”, according to bosses in Northumberland.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson ruled out immediate Covid restrictions in England but said the UK Government wouldn’t hesitate to take further action.

But with many firms already feeling the pinch as large sections of the public self-moderate their behaviour in the run up to Christmas, it has prompted re-think by ministers, with cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises to be made available for eligible companies.

“The most important thing is that we look after people’s health and keep people safe,” said Glen Sanderson, the leader of Northumberland County Council.

“And if that means more in the way of restrictions, then unfortunately we will have to look at that, but it must not be at the cost of business and I’m sure the government understands that.

“Our first duty is to listen to public health experts locally and work together locally.”

With the coronavirus Omicron variant continuing to spread rapidly through the UK, the Prime Minister held a three-hour cabinet meeting to discuss the possibility of new measures to slow infections.

But despite calls for new restrictions, ministers opted to stay their current course, instead urging the public to “act cautiously”, by limiting gatherings, wearing face coverings and “all the usual stuff about washing hands”.

If the government did order a further clampdown in response to rising infections, it would take at least 48 hours for such a move to become law, due to the need to recall Parliament from its Christmas break.

Asked about financial packages to help the hospitality industry, Johnson claimed aid was “already in place”.

And following the pressure, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today unveiled a £1 billion to prop up the hospitality sector, as well as further cash for theatres and museums.

The Night Time Industries Association, a trade body, has called for a “business booster” to rescue a sector “teetering on the brink of financial ruin” as a result of cancelled Christmas bookings.

The county council’s Labour opposition leader, Scott Dickinson, slammed government “idiots who can’t follow their own guidance” and agreed with Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon that previous cash handouts to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic would have been for nothing if more is not forthcoming.

He said: “Northumberland people have worked really hard to keep other Northumberland people safe.

“We’ve been let down by everything which has happened nationally, but to keep those people safe we now almost have to ignore what’s going on in the government and just continue to be as sensible as possible.

“If more restrictions come in, we must do our best to follow them.”

He added: “The government has to accept that their muddying of the information if having an impact, whether they like it or not.”