IT was natural for the focus to fall on families who saw their much-anticipated Christmas plans evaporate when the temporary lifting of coronavirus restrictions for the festive season was dramatically scaled back on Saturday.

But it did not take long for the full, devastating effects of the next wave of lockdowns on business to become clear too.

While efforts to suppress the rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus are understandable from a public health perspective, this will not dull the fresh pain business owners will be feeling right now, or ease the fears of those worried about the long-term implications for their jobs.

Customer-facing firms, such as those in hospitality, tourism and retail, were already facing a severely curtailed festive trading period before Saturday’s news that all of mainland Scotland would be moving into the highest level of lockdown for three weeks from Boxing Day.

It has only been since December 11 that non-essential retail and hospitality in much of west and central Scotland, as a result of moving into level three, have been able to trade again. And even then, trading has been severely restricted in bars, restaurants and hotels, given they are unable to sell alcohol and must close their doors by 6pm.

Level three status, nonetheless, did at least offer a brief window of opportunity for businesses to salvage something from a wretched year, during which they have been denied large tracts of normal operating time because of measures to keep on top of coronavirus.

Now, with businesses in most areas being placed in near-total lockdown again from Saturday, there have rightly been calls for the Scottish Government to provide further, “extraordinary” cash support to contain the inevitable fallout.

The devastating reality of the challenge posed by the new lockdown was captured by four leading Scottish business groups, which on Sunday wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to call for “extraordinary” funding to ease the pressure on already-struggling businesses.

In the letter, written by Marc Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and signed by the leaders of UKHospitality (Scotland), Scotland Food & Drink and Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the groups said they recognised the difficulty created by the new variant. But they warned there will be even more economic devastation to come if the action to contain the virus is not accompanied by further meaningful business support.

In the absence of “extraordinary” cash, Mr Crothall declared the prospect of recovery in the tourism and hospitality sector in the coming months would be even more limited.

The new lockdown means hotel groups and restaurants which have been taking bookings for the festive holiday period have suddenly seen their hopes for an uplifting finish to a miserable year well and truly dashed. It will be all the more painful to take as many businesses look to Christmas and New Year as a time to build up cash reserves before the quieter months of January and February kick in.

“Without a more equitable and up-weighted level of support being made available quickly, it is likely that many more businesses will be forced into temporary or permanent closure; operators are now dealing with a flood of cancellations and have lost much needed revenue as a result of yesterday’s (Saturday’s) announcement,” Mr Crothall wrote.

“With no opportunity to trade viably over the coming weeks and potentially months, there is a need for an even-greater level of financial support to save businesses and jobs including those in the supply chain and the livelihoods of many in the local communities that the industry supports.”

Last night, the Scottish Government responded by unveiling a support package worth £104.3 million for tourism and hospitality businesses in the new year. However, while the support was welcomed by industry groups, it should be noted this is not additional funding, but part of the £185m package first announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes earlier this month.

Questions were being asked over whether the grants, which will be worth up to £3,000 every four weeks for businesses required to shut by law, will be enough, particularly given the income likely to be lost as a result of closing over the festive period.

Moreover, while ministers declared that further work would be urgently undertaken to establish whether additional funding is needed in light of the move to more stringent lockdown measures, time is not a commodity many businesses have on their side.

Concerns have repeatedly been raised by the Federation of Small Businesses over how long it is taking for the emergency support to filter through. Indeed, some fear it could be February before the grants hit business bank accounts, by which time it may be too late for some.

Meanwhile, the implications of the impending lockdown will be as severe for retail as they are for tourism and hospitality. The traditional post-Christmas sales, which for many big-name retailers traditionally begin early on Boxing Day, will no longer happen, at least not in physical stores.

According to the Scottish Retail Consortium, this latest enforced shuttering of stores will cost the industry as much as £135m for each week they are unable to open.

“We recognise that government has difficult decisions to make and the situation with the pandemic is fast-moving, but this hugely disappointing news rounds off a torrid year for Scottish retail and is a further hammer-blow to non-food stores who have already borne so much during this crisis,” said SRC director David Lonsdale.

On the subject of crisis, the pressure continues to mount for the safe reopening of the English Channel to allow millions of pounds’ worth Scottish seafood to reach critical pre-Christmas markets in France and Spain.

France imposed a 48-hour ban on all transport with the UK on Sunday as concerns rose over the spread of the new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus in London and the south-east.

With still no sign of a breakthrough in Brexit talks, nine days before the transition period ends, it is little wonder that anger among Scottish seafood exporters has reached fever pitch.

Referring to the “blow” of the French blockade as “beyond devastating”, Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, called for urgent government help and for insurers to provide clarity over whether losses already sustained will be covered. She also, rightly, said the crisis “brought home the urgent need for time to prepare for Brexit”.

“A grace period for checks and new paperwork would be enormously welcomed,” Ms Fordyce said.

“In 24 hours, everything has changed and if the industry doesn’t get help now, the wider consequences could be dire.”