Greater Manchester 'used to uncertainty of shutdown rumours'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Local lockdowns rumoured: pub sector voices have called for clarity and an end to media speculation about further restrictions (image: Getty/ViktorCap)
Local lockdowns rumoured: pub sector voices have called for clarity and an end to media speculation about further restrictions (image: Getty/ViktorCap)

Related tags: Greater manchester, lockdown, Coronavirus, Admiral taverns

Pubs will be 'picked on straight away' should local lockdown restrictions be imposed on areas hit by coronavirus variants, one Greater Manchester operator has said.

Ministers have refused to rule out targeted local restrictions for areas reporting a spike in Covid-19 cases after concerns about a virus variant first identified in India.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the B.1.617.2 variant was thought to be “more transmissible than the previous one” but it was not known by how much.

Surge testing and vaccinations are taking place in several areas including in Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked on the Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday​ show if the roadmap could be adapted so that there were different regional restrictions.

Not ruled out

Hancock said: "We don't rule that out. The approach we're taking in Bolton and Blackburn is to absolutely pile in testing and vaccinations to try to get on top of this.”

What’s more, newspapers have reported Government sources as saying local lockdowns could be similar to tier four measures with hospitality closed and £18,000 grants for businesses.

One Greater Manchester operator said he felt used to the uncertainty after the area had been hit hard by local restrictions in the past.

“There's always been uncertainty,” Simon Delaney from the Firbank Bar and Kitchen told The Morning Advertiser (MA). ​"We're used to it."

He said the speculation of local lockdowns for the nearby areas felt familiar after the region was placed under tough measures last autumn.

The operator said he would support action should the variant “risk everything” but it would be unfair if hospitality was targeted. 

He explained: “Hospitality is where they will pick on straight away, without any proof or evidence that it is hospitality [driving transmission]. 

“That is what I think it has been from the start. There's no indication that hospitality was where it was all coming from so that's the frustration.”

Worry and anxiety

A paper from Government scientists published last month revealed that there were just 107 outbreaks​, defined as two or more coronavirus cases, associated with pubs since last summer.

“If we have to go into local lockdowns, they will close pubs straight away which is really, really annoying,” Delaney added.

He was critical of Government leaks of rumoured restrictions and said the lack of official information caused confusion among operators.

“I tend to not listen to the news as such until they make an announcement because I can give myself too much worry and anxiety over it all," the licensee explained.

Night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, said businesses were faced with “the very familiar feeling of uncertainty about what the next few weeks hold."

Lord called on the Government to reveal how it would financially support businesses should they be forced to close once more because of the variant.

“Floating these ideas without providing this information causes unnecessary stress and anxiety to business owners,” he added.

Closures on the cards

What’s more, Lord said delaying the 21 June lockdown easing step would pose “grave consequences” if financial support for nightclubs was not also extended.

Chief executive of Admiral Taverns, Chris Jowsey, was among pub bosses to call on the Prime Minister to stick to the roadmap. 

“Pubs have played a vital role in their communities over the past year, even when closed, bringing people together during difficult times,” Jowsey explained. “If all restrictions aren’t lifted as planned, we risk more pubs being closed for good."

He added: "Whilst the health and safety of the public is the upmost priority, community pubs have spent thousands of pounds ensuring they can operate safely and have continued to do so when allowed. 

“Not lifting all restrictions will have a detrimental effect on an industry that has already been unfairly targeted throughout the pandemic."

Related topics: Legislation

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