26 November 2020 12:31
Pub, hotel and restaurant owners have this week welcomed the end of lockdown for Wiltshire's hospitality sector. As The Times went to press, it seemed likely that the county would be placed in a tougher Tier 2 category from next Wednesday. Some civic leaders have called for Wiltshire to be put in Tier 1 which would mean fewer restrictions on bars, restaurants and cafes. And one Wiltshire hotelier has warned thousands of university students returning home for Christmas could help spread Covid-19 if they go out celebrating. James Sullivan-Tailyour, owner of The White Swan Hotel in Bradford on Avon, said: "My big fear is all the university students going back home between December 2 and 9 for Christmas.
"If the Government is going to allow huge swathes of pubs to open on December 3 all the university students are going to go out for one last drink before going home to see their parents and all their old school mates. "Somehow, they've got to allow the students to get home safely and not to let them go out binge drinking at parties before they go home. I think it's a really big issue and I am wondering how the government is going to manage that." Mark Hodges, landlord of the Tollgate Inn at Holt, says he would prefer to be in Tier 1 when the lockdown ends. "If we are put into Tier 2 it's going to be an absolute nightmare. It's the worst possible tier to be in.
"No household mixing will be allowed indoors except for business meetings, so, that takes out all the Christmas bookings. "We'll lose half the drinking trade and a lot of the meals trade because people can't mix households indoors." Neil Glasspool, co-owner of The Rising Sun at Bowden Hill, Lacock, says the sector's objective now is to survive until March. "We all have to abide by the government guidelines and keep on surviving until we come out the other side. "We have only been open for four months out of the last 12, as we only took over the pub on March 13, ten days before the first lockdown. "I am confident we can survive but people don't come to a country pub like ours to get drunk. "If they take a county approach instead of a local approach, Wiltshire will be in Tier 2. I would love us to be in Tier 1 but, looking at the data, the number of cases in Wiltshire are pretty high and the R number range (1.2-1.5) has crept up significantly." On Tuesday, Wiltshire Council leader Philip Whitehead said he was confident the Government would put the county into the right tier, based on evidence. The decision was due to be announced yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, after the Times went to press. Opposition leader Ian Thorn had called for Wiltshire to be placed in the lowest tier post-lockdown. In his letter, Cllr Thorn said that the Christmas period would be make or break for local businesses adding that those in hospitality, tourism and retail had taken a big hit from the second lockdown. Coun Whitehead said he is not prepared to risk public health if Wiltshire were to enter a tier with tighter measures. He said: "It is essential that at the ending of lockdown we go into the tier that we should go into, given the evidence base at the time. To wish to be in Tier 1 would not be sensible if it were not the correct tier for our infection rate." "To ignore the data at the time would be to put the health of the residents of Wiltshire at risk and although you seem to be suggesting this, I am not prepared to do it." On the impact to businesses, he said he was very aware of the financial impact of this month's measures. "This would have been significantly worse had the Conservative Government not put together the most generous and creative support package to help businesses to work their way through those difficulties," he said. "In Wiltshire, we paid out more than £96m to more than 8,000 businesses for the first lockdown and have already paid out more than £590,000 to businesses this time." Cllr Whitehead agreed with Cllr Thorn that Wiltshire's low rates of infection were down to the efforts made by its residents. "Wiltshire Council will continue to make all efforts to support Wiltshire residents in minimising the rate of infection across Wiltshire and we expect to follow government guidance to enter the correct tier based entirely on the evidence base for Wiltshire," Cllr Whitehead said. "The infection rate in recent weeks has been significantly higher than we would have liked, albeit from a low base. "We have stated publicly that we have continued to be concerned about this and that our expectation would have been to be in a higher tier by now had we not gone into a second lockdown." Those ads you do see are predominantly from local businesses promoting local services. These adverts enable local businesses to get in front of their target audience – the local community. It is important that we continue to promote these adverts as our local businesses need as much support as possible during these challenging times. Close Wiltshire placed in tier two Covid alert level The Government has put all areas in England into one of three different levels. Author: Jack Deery Published 54 minutes ago Last updated 54 minutes ago They have classed Wiltshire as a High level Covid risk, putting the county into the second tier. Decisions have been made by the Government based by using five key indicators: Case detection rates in all ages Case detection rates in over 60s The rate at which cases are rising or falling The number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken From Wednesday (2nd December) the country is coming out of a national lockdown and a regional approach is being re-implemented. WHAT TIER TWO MEANS Here are the new coronavirus rules for Wiltshire: CAN I SEE MY FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS? You will be allowed to form 'Christmas bubbles' with up to two other households. These rules will be in place between the 23rd and 27th of December so some families can be together for the festive period. A joint statement issued by the four UK governments said: "As 2020 draws to a close, we recognise it has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. This cannot be a 'normal' Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious." The government website has the latest coronavirus advice for each different tier. The Test Valley Borough Council and New Forest areas are also in tier 2.