The government needs to provide greater support for those firms worst-hit by the extension of the covid-19 lockdown or risk losing Croydon’s “beating heart”, according to the head of the largest business group in the borough.
Matthew Sims is the chair of Croydon BID, the business “improvement” district, which represents nearly 600 commercial concerns in and around the town centre.
With Croydon’s shopping centres already on their knees, thanks to a decade-long development blight caused by Westfield, Sims was quick yesterday to speak up for his organisation’s members after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the move to ease lockdown restrictions on June 21 was now being delayed by at least a month because of the “exponential” increase in positive covid cases from the Delta, or Indian, variant.
There were 7,742 new cases of coronavirus reported yesterday, more than 2,000 higher than a week earlier. There were three more fatalities linked to covid-19, bringing the national total since March 2020 to 127,907.
The government’s current strategy is to use the next five weeks to get as many people vaccinated, and double vaccinated, as possible to enable the final easing of restrictions. The lockdown measures have affected the leisure and hospitality industries particularly hard.
According to figures offered at a Downing Street briefing last night, a double dose of the vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective against serious illness, even from the much more virulent Delta variant.
“Now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people,” Johnson said last night.
The government scientists, and the Prime Minister, also stressed that coronavirus would never be going away, and that our lifestyles and the way we work would be changed forever to avoid widespread outbreaks of the virus.
Prof Chris Whitty said nobody should think that from the revised easing date of July 19 that the risk of covid-19 would disappear – but signalled there was a point where the risks could be managed. “There will still be… substantial numbers in hospitals and sadly there will be some people who will go on to die of this – the question is a matter of balance,” Prof Whitty said.
“We will have to live with this virus – which will continue to cause severe infections and kill people – for the rest of our lives.”
One of the most notable effects of the lockdown extension is the impact on the hospitality sector: while “test” events such as Euro 2020 at Wembley and tennis at Wimbledon are allowed to continue, many bars, restaurants and nightclubs will have to soldier on under carefully reduced capacities, without much in thee way of financial help from government.
In his statement, Croydon BID’s Sims said, “While we understand and accept the government’s cautionary note and subsequent delay in full reopening on June 21, it is equally important for the government to understand the need for greater business support applied to those sectors most deeply affected, in particular the hospitality and night-time economy.
“Businesses across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have responded to the calls of the government – investing millions of pounds in the process – to ensure its customers are safe. London’s economy needs certainty so our nightclubs, pubs, cafés and restaurants can start to operate fully without any further delay to that announced by the Prime Minister.
“What is equally important is that those businesses still restricted from trading are given an uplift in financial support. Without greater intervention, businesses who have clung on to the roadmap laid out by the government will disappear from our town and city centres – and with them the community’s beating heart.
“In representing over 550 businesses across Croydon town centre and as part of a business improvement district community which supports over 100,000 businesses in England and Wales, we implore the government to offer certainty, clarity and support for those businesses most affected by the recent announcement.”
Read more: 94% of covid cases in Croydon found to be India variant
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