Regions “cut out of the decision-making process”: Business leaders respond to COVID-19 tier update
Government’s health secretary Matt Hancock has today announced that almost all Tier 3 areas will remain at the current level of restrictions.
Mr Hancock also listed areas that will move into Tier 3, bringing 68 per cent of England’s population into the highest tier of COVID-19 restrictions.
The news means that the North East, Yorkshire and London will remain in the top tier until at least the New Year - excluding the allowances made for Christmas bubbles.
Business leaders across the regions have responded to the news.
Cllr Mary Lanigan, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
“We are disappointed the government has not recognised the huge effort from everybody in our borough to keep themselves and others safe, and to restrict the spread of the virus.
“The number of new cases and the infection rate in our borough has fallen steeply over the past month and I would like to thank everybody for everything they have done to achieve this.
“The decision means that some of our fantastic businesses cannot resume trading, particularly those in the hospitality sector for whom this is the busiest time of the year and being able to trade could have been the difference to survive into the new year.
“We remain extremely concerned about the impact of the restrictions on our economy and the jobs it provides.
“Despite this, we are all looking forward to some relief from what has been an incredibly tough year with the chance to celebrate Christmas. I’m sure everybody has been busy with arrangements for the festive period.
“However, the virus hasn’t gone away and remains a real threat to all, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. We should never forget how many families have lost loved ones during the pandemic – five Redcar and Cleveland residents have died in the past seven days alone.
“Let’s all do our bit to keep our infection rate down, reduce the number of people needing to go into hospital and ensure more people do not lose loved ones to this terrible virus.”
Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield City Region
“I know this decision is absolutely the last thing our communities and businesses wanted to hear, another hammer blow to follow so many others.
“After the endless grind and hardship of this extraordinary, terrible year, simply having an ordinary Christmas would have been a huge relief. For many of our businesses, these days and weeks are critical to their survival.
“I would reiterate that this decision was taken solely by central government. Once again, Mayors and local leaders have been cut out of the decision-making process and not even afforded the basic courtesy of being consulted, or informed in advance, about this decision.
“These decisions are absolutely crucial to our residents, businesses and communities, but yet again they are being made about us, without us.
“I will keep fighting for more support to help our communities and our businesses get through this incredibly tough time. We secured £30m funding for business support in October, we’ve increased our own funding for business support and skills by £16.5m, and we’ve given our councils a £6m boost to help them cope amid the crisis.
“Existing grants to businesses have been increased for December to support them through such a critical period. We’ve also prepared a detailed Renewal Action Plan so we can not only recover from COVID but build a stronger, greener and fairer South Yorkshire in the process.
“But COVID is still deadly and is still spreading. The lockdowns have brought the rate of new infections down, but we are going into Christmas in a perilous position.
“A surge in cases over Christmas, combined with the normal pressure on hospitals from winter flu, could put our NHS at a tipping point. We simply can’t risk the needless danger to our loved ones that would bring.
“We’ve already seen the first vaccinations in South Yorkshire. The light at the end of the tunnel is not just visible but growing brighter every day. That makes it all the more important to hold the line a little longer, so we do not unnecessarily lose lives just when the end is in sight.
“We are so close to being able to spend time with our families as normal: we must not risk another lockdown and more loss of life for the sake of a few days.
“For now, in this season above all others, we have to think not just of our own safety but of our friends, our family, our community. Together, we can reach the finishing line that is getting closer every day.”
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)
“As even more areas have been dragged into the tightest Covid restrictions, with limited changes to the current restrictions particularly in the north. The government has compounded an already critical position within the night time economy and hospitality sector.”
“Thousands of businesses and employees have supported the Government’s public health campaign against Covid, creating safe, regulated environments for people to socialise. This financial burden and commitment has been recognised only in lip-service, with insubstantial support measures to repay confidence in the sector.
“The current financial support is grossly disproportionate to operating costs and the current restrictions express a level of willful ignorance: they are a policy decision, without scientific basis or consideration for the hardest hit sectors. This deserves nothing less than anger and outrage from operators and businesses.
“This week the ONS released figures highlighting 819,000 fewer workers on company payroll, and an increase to 1.7 million unemployed. The statistics speak for themselves and much of this is as a direct result of the current operating restrictions and lack of support being given to the Night Time Economy and Hospitality sectors.
“The government must compensate these businesses for the period of time they have been closed, and the loss of business suffered due to restrictions through the festive period.
“The sector has suffered horrendously since the start of the pandemic and is continually bearing the burden, so that other sectors are able to open during the festive period.”
Julia Burrows, director of public health at Barnsley Council
“Although we have seen the overall rate of infection reduce and start to level out across South Yorkshire over the past few weeks, we are now seeing signs that the overall rate is starting to increase again. This includes increasing infection rates in those over 65 years old.
“The pressure on NHS services also remains high, as they continue to try to provide routine health care on top of handling COVID-19 admissions. By moving out of very high restrictions at this time, we would put South Yorkshire’s hospitals at additional risk as well as the lives of vulnerable people.
“I understand this may be frustrating for many people, as so many have worked hard to reduce our rates. However, it is vital that we do all we can to keep the virus under control as much as possible as we have seen how quickly infections and deaths can increase.”
Sarah Green, chief executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative
“Today’s announcement is disappointing news for the tourism and hospitality industry and confirms that businesses will miss out on up to 30 per cent of their annual turnover in the crucial festive period. We need more support for these businesses so that they can make it through the usually quieter months of January, February and March.
“Now is the time to look ahead to 2021 and ensure that when restrictions are relaxed for the region it is on a permanent basis and we do not fall back into a cycle of tightening and loosening rules which is damaging for businesses.
“There is lots to look forward to in the region in 2021, from new restaurant and hotel openings to major events, and now is the time to work together to control the virus so that we can enjoy everything that next year will bring.
“With vaccinations starting in the region this week and plans for rapid testing to allow people back in sports stadiums and cultural venues, there is now cause for greater optimism as we move forward.”
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