Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce comment on the tier decision and we also have comment from Dorset Chamber chief executive Ian Girling
It is with some disappointment that we have to write that we will now be staying in Tier 2 in our area over the Christmas period and we completely realise that this may have a devastating effect particularly on the hospitality industry and the already hard hit entertainment industry that surrounds this.
Christmas is a time of celebration and joy where many businesses would normally be going on festive meals and parties and on the whole our area has worked very well with the Tier 2 procedures and previous to that to the measures that were put in place for July over the Summer in that our rate of infection is fairly low.
It would have been quite impossible for us to be put in to Tier 1 though. There are 5 criteria that the government talk about being met before a change in tier level but really the most important thing is the amount of ICU beds available in your local Hospital.
We don’t know exactly how many hospital beds DCH have but we do know that the population that DCH has to serve is very high. Not just here in Weymouth & Portland but of course other areas in Dorset. They also have to cover not just Coronavirus cases but anything else that might happen as well.
So If the Tier level was dropped then we would immediately be in danger of overrunning our only major hospital.
What we need to be doing is speaking as one voice and requesting financial assistance. Our backs are against the wall at the moment. Many businesses cannot make money following the Tier 2 procedures.
So because Christmas is a time when reserves are normally put in the bank to cover leaner months this should be taken into account and further assistance in line with the original grants should be offered and a wider offer concerning rate relief should also be included to take into account larger premises
We would urge the government knowing what they know now to put into a play a longer term strategy lasting until Easter which should first and foremost be implemented based on the maximum ICU Hospital beds available to any one area. That part is then set and the tiers can then be set in stone and the government could look at tweaking the terms or if further financial assistance is offered then businesses may be able to ride it out.
Leaving things exactly as they are will make life very difficult and add a lot of undue stress and worry especially at this time of year.
Craig added: “The impact for Tier 2 may be absolutely devastating to the hospitality trade particularly as a whole and this is why financial assistance would be needed to bolster what has already provided to this area and also to periphery industries that work around hospitality.”
“My advice to businesses is to continue to campaign as one voice for assistance.
A number of shops have shut in Weymouth town centre due to the pandemic
“Use factual situations and make clear that if you cannot operate you will need further money than just that to pay wages and rent to survive.”
Mr Oakes warned of a “difficult Winter” and there may not be any point in Dorset moving to Tier 1 if there are not enough hospital beds for coronavirus patients.
He continued: “The Government should know well in advance how many hospital beds there are versus the infection rate in Dorset which should give clear indication of where we should be at and then they can concentrate on more long term strategies.
“We wish all businesses in Weymouth & Portland and their teams the very best this Christmas and we are extremely proud of their resilience and community spirit thus far.
“Please hold on in there.”
Dorset Chamber chief executive Ian Girling said: “There will be many people very disappointed by this decision, especially in those areas where there has been a reduction in infection rates.
“Clearly the government is deeply concerned about the risk of rates rising and we have seen that in its messaging about Christmas over the past few days.
“It is absolutely vital that the government does everything it can to support businesses at this time.
“But every individual should also take personal responsibility and follow the guidelines which have been put in place.
“We must do all we can to get through this and move Dorset out of tier two into tier one as soon as possible in the new year.
“Support for all businesses remains available through the Dorset Gateway and we will continue to work with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and ours partners in Dorset to provide the greatest help possible.”