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Why Has Boris Thrown the Hospitality Sector to the Wolves?

Cartoon by Brian Adcock in the Independent on August 11th 2020

As with the lockdown, so with the Roadmap: few industries can have suffered more than hospitality from the Government’s cack-handed attempts to minimise the COVID-19 death toll. Pubs will not be allowed to open until April 12th, and even then only to offer an outdoor service. Johnnie Arkwright, who runs a visitor attraction called Hatton Country World in Warwick – as well as a local pub – feels that the sector has been thrown to the wolves. This is his statement to the local media,

Not being allowed to open the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs at the end of March in time for Easter is a major financial blow for many desperately stretched small hospitality businesses; and it’s down to serious anomalies in the PM’s Roadmap to Lift Lockdown.

It must be a nonsense to let playgrounds in public parks stay open throughout Lockdown, after-school activities to proceed from March 8th, amateur contact sports like football with 22 players to start on March 29th and then to continue to ban family groups from the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs until the middle of April.

Under the proposals, the Great Outdoors, with all its fresh air and space to socially distance, can only open at the same time as higher risk ‘Enclosed Areas’ like non-essential shops and gyms in the middle of April.

Even drive-in Cinemas are banned till then, despite the fact that families never even get out of their cars – surely, no reason for them not to be open now!

And, actually, why on Earth keep shops closed for another seven weeks when Garden Centres have remained open throughout the current lockdown?

None of us want another false dawn again, but when we at Hatton Country World were allowed to open last summer, we entertained well over a thousand people a day without a single COVID-19 case by taking sensible precautions – pre-booking so we could Track and Trace, restricting numbers, maximum family groups of six, not opening enclosed areas, taking temperatures, installing social distance markers, hand sanitiser points, and so on .

That, of course, was before the more vulnerable elements of our society were all vaccinated in the brilliant initiative that has put the UK at the forefront of the Western world.

Frankly, the chances of small family groups catching COVID-19 in an outdoor environment is minimal anyway.

As for pubs and restaurants – we all understand why packed boozers and boogying nightclubs need to wait. But keeping the inside of food-led pubs and restaurants with table service closed for another three months – really?

The hospitality sector has been closed for eight of the last 12 months – we’re all right on the edge. The detail of this blanket plan has not been properly thought through, and more businesses will close completely unnecessarily unless changes to the plan are made.

With closures come, of course, job losses – mostly the under-25s and school leavers who staff the hospitality sector, the same young people who have already been hit so hard by the pandemic for which they will also be paying most of their lives.

Let’s pray that Parliament makes the Government see sense.