Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, it has been clear that the way to most effectively control the virus – and therefore save lives – will unfortunately do a lot of damage to the economy. We have rightly been told to spend as much time as possible at home and to avoid unnecessary social contact with others to stop the virus from spreading.
This has, of course, been difficult for all of us. Not seeing family and friends for months on end can leave us feeling lonely, miserable and isolated, and I’m very glad that some of the most stringent lockdown measures can now be eased.
It’s not just our personal relationships and wellbeing that social distancing has made very difficult though. Many businesses rely on people getting together, most notably the hospitality industry.
Since March, our pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels have largely been closed to customers, who have been told to stay at home instead. I have heard from many of these businesses within my constituency and I know that they feel that the future is very uncertain. Many – though by no means all – have received some financial support through various government schemes, but there are still major concerns about what comes next.
This week the Government has announced that many of these businesses that have had to close will soon be allowed to open once more. I am very glad that health experts believe that this is now safe to do and I know many businesses will welcome the news. The “two metre rule” is also to be relaxed which is essential for many places to reopen.
However, I think the Government needs to think about how to support those businesses that will struggle to function properly even with a “one metre rule” due to restricted space. Then there are the hospitality businesses who have not received any support, for instance some small events companies run from home. These businesses need urgent support or they may disappear altogether by the time we return to something like normality.
Balancing public health and the economy was always going to be incredibly difficult, but it’s essential for the hospitality sector across Tameside that the Government gets it right. I believe we can also all play an important part by supporting our local restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels and other hospitality businesses when they reopen next month. These are important community hubs and we should do what we can to help protect them.