The majority of firms are in a position to partially restart operations as lockdown restrictions are eased, according to the latest British Chambers of Commerce Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker.

The weekly tracker poll, which serves as a barometer of the pandemic’s impact on businesses and the effectiveness of government support measures, received 609 responses.

The eighth tranche of polling was conducted from May 13 to 15 after the Job Retention Scheme was extended until the end of October.

The majority of respondents (83 per cent) reported high levels of awareness of the government’s new workplace guidance as sectors of the economy begin to reopen gradually.

Just over a third (37 per cent) of respondents said that they could fully restart operations by implementing the government guidance, while 45 per cent said they could do so partially. However due to social distancing guidelines, it is likely that many firms will see a reduction in demand and will not be able to restart at full capacity.

A total of 10 per cent of respondents did not agree that they would be ready to implement guidance and restart operations, mainly citing social distancing as difficult.

The majority of employers (around 70 per cent) have furloughed a portion of their staff. Cash-poor firms, with less than three months’ cash in reserve, remain more likely to furlough portions of their workforce.

The furlough scheme continues to prevent firms having to make redundancies, with very few respondents making any. Employers welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme in some form until the end of October, and it will be critical to introduce high levels of flexibility if it is to phase employees back into work.

More than half of those applying for a Bounce Back Loan Scheme reported success.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “While businesses have welcomed the publication of official guidance on how they can reopen premises and restart operations, some sectors still require greater clarity from the government on when and how they will be allowed to do so. This is particularly the case for hospitality and leisure companies, which will not reopen before July at the earliest.

“Companies at all levels of readiness to restart, of all sizes, and in every part of the UK will need sustained government support as they navigate the ‘new normal’ with reduced demand and restrictions still in place. Many support schemes will need to be adapted and updated, but must not be withdrawn prematurely.”