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While there was welcome relief at the news that England’s second national lockdown would finally end, Thursday’s announcement that it was to be replaced with only slightly milder restrictions across much of the country left many fearing a bleak winter in tiers 2 and 3.
Only three areas received a relative reprieve in tier 1, but, for many, happiness was tempered by a fear that an influx of visitor from riskier areas could leave them facing tougher restrictions too.
The pub landlords For Kieran Devine and his brother Conor, who have been in the pub trade for 34 years and run the Huntsman pub in Cheadle in Staffordshire, the new rules made little sense.
“It’s absolutely crazy that you can get a tattoo but not go to the pub,” said Kieran Devine. “You can have a facial where someone is standing inches away from you but you can’t go to a well-run pub with table service – it’s complete madness.”
Conor added that pubs had already had to take expensive steps to comply with Covid regulations and claimed they were now being singled out. “We’ve spent thousands of pounds making our pub Covid-safe. It’s like the government’s saying: ‘To hell with everybody else, we’ll just pick out the hospitality industry, as if it’s their fault’.”
The tearoom owner The news that the Blackburn with Darwen area was to return to the strictest lockdown conditions left Suzanne Halliwell wanting to cry. “I know I’m not going to take a penny home in December because we’ll just be paying the bills,” she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, her tearoom had operated as a bistro in the evenings. But tier 3 status meant it would be forced to remain closed altogether.
“I didn’t take any money for three months over the first lockdown. Our landlord has been good and halved the rent but there’s still half to pay, utilities, and glass washers and coffee machines I rent.”
Halliwell too felt her industry had been left to carry much of the burden, saying: “I cannot understand the rationale, because you can have beauty therapists and hairdressers open, but you can’t have people sitting at sanitised tables in a well-cleaned place with their household. It feels like businesses like ours are the sacrificial lamb.”
The police watchdog The West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, said the news had come as a shock to the region, adding: “While I support the government in its efforts to save lives and bring the spread of Covid under control, I feel for everyone in our region who has already sacrificed so much. I understand what a cruel blow this latest news will be.”
The independent business owner Matthew Fleming-Duffy, who runs mortgage broker Cherry Mortgage and Finance in Christchurch, Dorset, said the move was disappointing but that he would simply have to “grin and bear it for a little longer”.
He said: “We have adapted to work remotely, the property market is open and so we can continue to trade. I just feel for other types of business that cannot function without footfall.”
The pub landlord David Jobling, the owner of the Doghouse Micro Pub in Weymouth, Dorset, said tier 2 restrictions in the area would force his pub to close because it does not serve food. And he was exasperated about the application of the rules. “How can I be open in tier 1, have to close in tier 2, but can open again for take-outs in tier 3?”
He accused the government of failing to do enough to support the businesses that will be struggling. “The grant we received in first lockdown was a great help, the grants in this lockdown do cover existing bills, but not much else. So personally I have less cash.”
Workers in the City Lennie, who runs Lennie’s Sandwich Bar on Old Street in central London, said he feared the period of moribund trade his shop has suffered since the summer would be prolonged. “It is dead, dead, dead,” said Lennie, who declined to give his surname. “No one is at their work in offices so no one comes to buy their lunch.”
Catherine McGuinness, City of London Corporation policy chair, said: “Many businesses across London and the Square Mile will be breathing a collective sigh of relief. That said, as we look to the new year, firms in the City urgently need clarity on when office workers can return to Covid-secure workplaces.”
The worried resident Kathy Brown, a retiree from Cornwall, believes the very thing that benefits the area is the thing that poses the greatest danger.
“I live in a beautiful tiny fishing village and almost all the houses here are second homes. Everything is shut as there are no visitors but I am worried that people will now decide to travel here because they think it’s safe.
“They think I don’t know but I’ve heard people turn up quietly in the night so they can get away from the city. They’re cosmopolitan people. You don’t know where they’ve been or where they come from and I imagine they have friends who are not obeying the rules.”
The restaurateur Jack Stein, the chef director of the Stein group of restaurants, which was founded by his father, Rick Stein, who has several restaurants in Cornwall, said it was reassuring to be able to set out plans for the Christmas period.
“However, I feel the weight of the entire restaurant industry on my shoulders and for all those friends and colleagues who are having a very difficult time. The sector has been battered by Covid-19 and also has Brexit to worry about.”
The small business owners Natasha Edwards, who runs the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight, said: “What’s good for business may not be good for infection rates.” She said she felt lucky but hoped people would “continue to be sensible – both locals and visitors to the island”.
But Sam Smart, who co-owns the Smart surf school in Sennen Cove, Cornwall, was less concerned. He said thousands of holidaymakers visited west Cornwall earlier in the year, causing anxiety among locals. But he said he believed this was misplaced and, while he did not plan to reopen his business immediately, many others in the area certainly would.
The political leader Julian German, the leader of Cornwall council warned residents to be cautious, saying the local hospital and social care services were very stretched. “Going into tier 2 just ahead of Christmas will be a disaster for residents and businesses so please continue to follow the guidance and think seriously about any social mixing.”
Source: The Guardian
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