Firms taking 'cautionary' approach to covid in run up to Christmas

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street in Downham Market.

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street in Downham Market. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

Some Norfolk businesses have begun to reintroduce Covid safety measures as concerns rise over the new variant and possible impact on Christmas celebrations.

Face coverings are now compulsory in shops and on public transport from Tuesday, November 30 following the reintroduction of restrictions, unless people are exempt.

Ministers said face coverings would be reviewed in three weeks' time when more is known about the Omicron variant.

Businesses have reacted to the latest measures, with some concern in the run up to Christmas that we could see a similar period to last year.

James Groves, managing director of Norwich-based energy consultancy firm Indigo Swan, said staff at the company continue to work in the office from Tuesday to Thursday with Monday and Friday staying as 'work from home' days.

Emily Groves, managing director, and James Groves, head of talent and organisational development; wi

James Groves, managing director at Indigo Swan. - Credit: Denise Bradley

He added employees have been asked to wear masks in all communal areas and "refreshed them" on the rules around the office, which includes a one way system and hand sanitiser stations.

Mr Groves said: "The Swans are all supportive of this and as always we have spoken with them and reminded them to take lateral flow tests before coming to the office and to speak with us should they have any concerns or wish to make alternative arrangements."

Elsewhere, although the new measures do not affect pubs and restaurants, Emily Phipps, landlady of The Angel in Watlington, said they continue to take a cautionary approach, with social distancing measures in place, regular lateral flow tests and face masks being voluntary for her staff.

Emily Phipps with son and Richard Crouch outside The Angel in Watlington. Picture: Emily Phipps

Emily Phipps with son and Richard Crouch outside The Angel in Watlington. Picture: Emily Phipps - Credit: Archant

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She said: "We still use the antivirals, the sanitisers, all our tables are still spaced and we never changed that and we don't want to change that, and we're still sticking with ventilation where we can.

"In a way hospitality have made a real effort to keep businesses as Covid safe as we physically can do."

The landlady said business owners are now "being hesitant" and that people generally have been too in regard to mass booking Christmas parties, with a few cancelling their bookings.

Although still optimistic about the festive period, she said: "I'm hopeful people act responsibly during this uncertain couple of weeks. 

"I can't bring myself to look at the negatives because we have already had to place our Christmas orders so I already have stock in for example on soft drinks.

"We've had to prepare for a December that was planned for."

She added that business has been steady and picks up over the weekends.

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street in Downham Market, said she has noticed a decline in footfall at her women's boutique and that she was concerned this period "feels like a replica of last year".

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink in Downham Market.

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink in Downham Market. - Credit: Jan Moloney

She said: "I am working out a business plan to cover if I do close. I am anticipating that we will lockdown.

"At the moment in the shop, we are following the mandatory masks and being cautious, but the footfall has indicated that people are keeping out the way.

"The last week or so it has been very quiet, it's hard to put your finger on what's going. It's a combination of lots of things and it stops people dead."

Although the November and December period are not usually the busiest times for her business, she said she is coming up with a plan to help her "ride through" it like she had done in 2020.

Mrs Moloney said: "We're still doing online shopping so jogging along.

"I think people are still hopeful.

"In Downham people tend to be very cautious, if lockdown happens or if the footfall decreases then obviously it will affect us. 

"It's disappointing because people were so optimistic about this Christmas. We deserve a lot of normality."

In December last year, the owner called on people to support local businesses and shop local after she was financially down by around 60pc.

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