‘Jobs will be lost’: Bosses’ plea to government as Covid measures set to tighten
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Business leaders from across Norfolk have united to urge the government not to reimpose draconian stay-at-home rules.
Their pleas come as this newspaper demands Number 10 considers other measures to fight the spread of coronavirus rather than bringing in another blanket ban which could choke off activity in the Norfolk economy.
All business heads are agreed that people’s safety is paramount but there is a call for balance. They believe Norfolk can fight the pandemic without the need to put its firms, many of which are only just managing to get going again, in a stranglehold.
Martin Dupee, vice-chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions Association (NSTA) and director of Visit East of England, said: “We absolutely would not want to see another lockdown, but it is critical we take the measures we can to ensure we are acting responsibly and keeping people safe.
“Lockdown would mean putting jobs at risk, it would result in redundancies. Tourism has been incredibly strong in Norfolk and Suffolk but it is going to be a long and dark winter before next Easter so measures need to be put in place by the government because the loans will need to be paid back and the rebate holiday will come to an end at the point when businesses’ bank balances are at their lowest.
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“The lower rate of VAT needs to continue to next autumn.
“However, we all have a responsibility to keep at arm’s length and learn how to put on a face mask correctly. Norfolk must not be negligent simply because we have had a lower rate of infection, we haven’t seen the real impact yet – but we can prevent it.”
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Peter Williamson, director of NSTA, added: “With threats of lockdown before the October half term, this would be devastating to our tourist attractions.”
Adam Goymour, director at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure in Lenwade, said: “Covid-19 has had a real impact on our business this year and will no doubt continue to do so over the coming months. October is our second busiest trading month of the year and naturally we are apprehensive at the prospect of a second lockdown. We absolutely applaud the work that Norfolk is doing to promote the area to visitors. We are all doing everything we can to follow all the government’s guidelines so we can remain open.”
And David Graham, general manager of Dunston Hall Hotel in Norwich added: “We are not seeing the functions, nearly all weddings have been put over until next year. We’ve lost Thursford which hit hospitality in the area hard because hotels in Norfolk expected a lot of business from mid November and into December.
“And then there is Christmas – we are not going to see the office parties, so although we’ve had a good summer, winter is going to be challenging enough.”
Richard Turvill, director, Camplings based in Great Yarmouth, which provides linen to the hospitality industry processing 350,000 items a week, said: “We certainly need the tourism industry to trade ourselves. In the last lockdown we lost 95pc of our business in five days and it’s taken a huge effort to get momentum going again.
“There are going to be coronavirus outbreaks but it’s about how businesses contain them.”
Nova Fairbank, head of policy at Norfolk Chambers of Commerce also called on government to pull out all the stops to avoid a new shutdown.
She said: “It is vital that any lockdown does not negatively impact upon those recovering businesses and stall overall economic recovery. At present in Norwich, there are 11 cases per 100,000 – the national average is 16 cases.
“Any national lockdown should be taken based on evidence to protect public health, and where the negative economic impact of a full lockdown would be outweighed by the benefits to public health.”
Jan Hytch, chairwoman of Norwich & District Association of Estate Agents, representing more than 30 local firms and a partner with Arnolds Keys property agency, said: “Those in central government need to strike a careful balance between maintaining public safety and not choking off activity in the economy. The property market has bounced back strongly since restrictions were eased in June. It would be counter-productive to stop that in its tracks now.
“And with so many people in the process of moving, a re-imposition of lockdown could cause them real problems, even leave them without a home in extreme cases.”
Tim Sweeting, chief executive officer, YMCA Norfolk: “Lockdown would be absolutely disastrous for our organisation. Young people really struggled and many were stuck in difficult family situations, unable to speak out. We had to close all our youth clubs and return to online contact only. We really would not want to do that again.”