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Welsh Business Leaders Respond to Fire Break Lockdown


Responding to Mark Drakeford’s announcement on the latest coronavirus restrictions Welsh business leaders have shared their views:

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Cymru’s Acting Director, Pete Robertson, said:

“The Welsh Government has faced the tough decision to take forward further lockdown restrictions in Wales. This includes the closure of hospitality businesses which will undoubtedly have a significant knock-on impact on Welsh food and drink suppliers.

“We welcome the £300m announced to support those businesses affected. We also urge the Welsh Government to allocate funds not just to the businesses that have been required to close, but to the businesses that supply the hospitality sector and who are due to lose their customers overnight.

“Throughout the crisis, FDF Cymru has been working closely with the Welsh Government, and maintaining this dialogue will be key to help those businesses most impacted by these new measures.”

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, National Director for the Institute of Directors in Wales and the South West said:

“Today’s news is disappointing for businesses the length and breadth of the country but the short-term pain of a short firebreak is needed for the longer term benefit of our health and our economy here in Wales. We are in constant contact with Welsh Government officials and will update our members on the implications of the First Minister’s announcement as soon as the detail is provided.”

Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:

“Whilst it is disheartening that coronavirus cases have increased to a point at which a fire breaker lockdown in required, we welcome the fact that Welsh Government have listened to the calls FSB Wales made over the weekend for a package of funding to support businesses through this lockdown.

“To give confidence to businesses at such a difficult time, we urge UK Government to respond immediately to Welsh Government’s proposal for Welsh businesses to take early advantage of the Job Support Scheme. This is a common sense suggestion by Welsh Government that could have huge practical benefit for many businesses across the country. Businesses will need to be able to draw this support down to give their workers peace of mind and help pay their wage bills.

“It is important that self-employed and sole traders are able to access support over this period. Many, such as those within the trades professions or driving instructors for instance, will be heavily impact by the shutdown restrictions and so appropriate support needs to be available.

“Detailed guidance will need to be made available as a priority to allow businesses to plan. Businesses need to know exactly who must close, and what restrictions might be imposed upon those that are able to remain open. We will be engaging with Welsh Government in the coming hours and days to ensure that businesses have all of the information that they need.

“Smaller businesses across Wales have worked hard to create safe workplaces and so where businesses remain open and for those roles where working from home is not possible, we would like to see encouragement by Welsh Government of employees to attend those workplaces to ensure that those businesses and our economy do not suffer unnecessarily.

“We are pleased to see that funding will be available next week – the process surrounding applying for and receiving the funding should be light-touch for businesses and clearly communicated by Welsh Government and local authorities. Businesses also urgently need to know what information that they need to provide in order to receive the funding. Many business owners and their staff have been through a very anxious weekend waiting on the First Minister’s announcement, and there is no need for this uncertainty and anxiety to be further exacerbated by complicating the means of getting this funding where it will make a difference – into those businesses.

“We were pleased to see the First Minister signal his intention to start planning the process of easing out of lockdown as early as possible, we would urge him to sit down with business organisations as soon as possible to help plan this transition effectively. We only have one opportunity to ease out of this lockdown, and so it must be done right, and in a way that helps firms safely take advantage of the opportunity to trade in the run up to Christmas. This is especially important given that losing out on 2 weeks of trade at this time of year will be incredibly damaging to some firms.

“Finally, we welcome the assurance that this will end on 9th November. We asked for that clarity and we are pleased that the First Minister has provided it. The next steps must now be to ensure that funding and guidance can be accessed by businesses in the shortest possible amount of time, as we all continue to work together to support firms through this incredibly difficult time and keep Wales safe from coronavirus.”

Paul Slevin, President, South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said:

“While the new restrictions announced today are not to be welcomed by some, we understand that unfortunately this level of action is now what is required given the rising cases of coronavirus we are seeing in many parts of Wales. We are pleased to see early clarity on the restrictions that are to be implemented, along with the First Minister’s commitment that this ‘fire-break’ lockdown will remain in force for a defined period only.

“We also welcome the support packages announced today to support businesses large and small across Wales, in what will surely be another distressing period of worry and uncertainty for them. We are encouraged by the pace and speed at which Welsh Government are working in order to get this much needed support out to businesses, and hope that this will provide some security for some of our most valued but vulnerable businesses.

“We have already talked to many of our members across a variety of sectors and there are mixed reactions. High on the list of many companies is the effect on people. The opening of schools is a major plus so that children can enjoy some sort of routine. Equally, many employers are expressing concern for the mental health and welfare of their staff. We encourage everyone to be watchful for how this affects people and to make sure where possible that they get the right help.

“As we have been throughout this entire pandemic, we will continue to be here in support of our members, providing them with the resources, support and guidance they need to navigate these unprecedented times. This past weekend we have been speaking with as many of our members as possible to gather insight in to how lockdown measures may impact them, clarity they require and support that they would like to see, and passed that information directly on to the First Minister.

“We are pleased to see that many of our comments and suggestions have been taken on board in relation to today’s announcement, and we will continue to provide a voice for our members in our conversations with Welsh Government as more details are released in the coming days, and as we enter this next period of restrictions.”

Dr David Bailey, BMA Cymru Wales council chair, said:

“BMA Cymru Wales welcomes the decision to introduce a fire break lockdown in Wales. With the worrying increase in infections showing no signs of slowing, it is necessary that more stringent lockdown measures are put in place to protect the Welsh NHS and to save lives.

“Bringing in stronger restrictions in Wales at this point is essential – the surge in cases alongside the pressure that the winter season will inevitably bring and the huge backlog of patients already in the system is quite frankly an overwhelming prospect. Our members are deeply concerned about the ability of the service to cope. We hope the fire break will stop the exponential rise and keep cases at a level where the NHS can cope, whilst also providing a small amount of relief to the staff who are fighting this virus on the frontline.

“The key to defeating this virus is clear and robust preventative measures, so the fire break must be accompanied by a longer-term national prevention strategy. As part of that strategy, BMA Cymru Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to focus on:

  • continued priority testing for symptomatic NHS staff and further consideration of regular asymptomatic testing for NHS staff;

  • clear and consistent communication with the public on what they need to do to stop the spread, this must include clear public messaging that the NHS must be protected if elective work is to be delivered alongside caring for the influx of coronavirus patients;

  • tackling in-hospital spread of the virus;

  • keeping schools open where possible to avoid long-term effects on children’s mental health and well-being;

  • childcare support for frontline key workers who are putting their lives on the line to care for patients;

  • reducing bureaucracy and improving IT;

  • fair remuneration for additional hours worked.

Pembrokeshire Council Leader, David Simpson, said:

“I can provide assurance that detailed planning arrangements both internally, and externally with our partner agencies, are underway to ensure that we are well placed to meet any challenges which may arise.

“We will be issuing further updates over the coming days.”

Councillor Simpson added: “The First Minister has clearly said the ‘firebreak’ has been put in place due to the increasing level of cases across Wales.

“Although the restrictions do not come into force until Friday we all have to act now – early prevention can make a huge difference.”

Newport Now Business Improvement District (BID) commented:

“The BID, which represents more than 600 businesses in Newport city centre, has provided online help and support for its members since the first UK-wide lockdown in March, distributed thousands of pieces of PPE and other Covid safe equipment to independent businesses, lobbied local and national government on behalf of its members, produced a series of social media videos promoting Newport as a safe place to shop, and offered shopfront improvement grants.

The Welsh Government has announced a nationwide ‘firebreak’ lockdown from 1800 on Friday, October 23, to 0001 on Monday, November 9.

This measure will see the majority of Newport Now’s members forced to close with only essential shops and banks able to stay open.

While the BID would never question the science behind the lockdown decision, and we understand and agree that the health and safety of the public is the priority, we make the following points to Welsh Government.

Firstly, it is important ministers understand the impact this lockdown will have on the Newport economy, particularly the retail, leisure, and hospitality sectors. The right financial support, that is easy to access and paid quickly, is vital. Many businesses do not know how they will be able to pay their staff and suppliers during this period. Some are already on their knees. If these businesses do not survive this lockdown then the economic landscape of Newport will be bleak indeed.

Secondly, we are approaching the most important Christmas trading period anyone can remember. The retail and hospitality sectors need clarity that they will be able to trade as freely as possible once this lockdown period ends. There needs to be an end to the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars, and restaurants, for example. There is no evidence that we have seen to support this arbitrary trading restriction. Indeed, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the 10pm curfew is leading both to anti-social behaviour issues in town and city centres at weekends, and an increase in illegal house parties

Finally, businesses need clarity as soon as possible regarding the Welsh Government’s request to Westminster to bring forward access to the UK-wide Job Support Scheme.

The severity of the situation facing our members cannot be underestimated.”