Call for more support for the hospitality trade in Northumberland after Freedom Day delayed

The decision not to end Covid restrictions has been met with disappointment but not surprise in Northumberland.

By Ian Smith
Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 10:54 am

Hopes of removing the remaining lockdown measures on June 21 have been dashed by the growing number of cases of the Delta variant with Prime Minister Boris Johnson now targeting July 19.

The decision was met with a resigned acknowledgement that the timing for a return to ‘normality’ was not quite right.

Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “It wasn’t unexpected given that it was drip fed into the papers over the previous week but it’s still disappointing, especially for the hospitality industry which could really do with getting back to normal.

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Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade.

"Those businesses absolutely need more support. Many bars and restaurants are working at half capacity and they need twice the number of staff to provide table service so the fact there is no additional support is poor.

"We’ve been going through this for so long now that we just need to gird our loins for another four weeks and go for it but I would plead for young people to go and get their jabs so businesses can get back to normal.”

Publican Jake Castleman, who owns The Pig in Muck in Alnwick and The Cock and Bull in Amble, said: “I’m obviously very disappointed to see restrictions continue for another four weeks, but being open is better than being closed at the moment.

"The Delta variant is clearly rising in the UK which needs to be cautiously managed, so I understand the extension to a degree, but four weeks seems excessive.

"Again, as I've said before, the government do need to offer financial support to businesses who are not able to open with these restrictions in order to secure jobs and livelihoods.

“I really do hope July 19 is the last of this, but seemingly the goalposts can always be changed, whether it's for following the science or indeed the politics.”

The further delay is likely to lead to the postponement or cancellation of planned events, with The Bamburgh Run motorycle rally among them.

As many as nine in every ten Covid-19 cases in Northumberland could be the Delta variant, according to health chiefs.

“In terms of the proportion of cases coming back as the Indian variant, or the Delta variant, it is very much the dominant strain circulating at the moment and in Northumberland, it is probably over 90 per cent,” said Liz Morgan, director of public health at Northumberland County Council.

Meanwhile, the announcement has been welcomed by the LA7 – made up of the leaders of Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and Durham councils as well as North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.

They said: “It is vital we use this extra time to ensure second dose vaccinations to the over 40s and those who are at clinical risk are delivered at even greater pace to afford as much protection to those most vulnerable to Covid-19.”

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