Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive Statement - Lancashire moves to VERY HIGH Alert Status
Little did I think, when I sat at my keyboard to write something to our partners in March, that we’d still be facing new challenges, almost every day, linked to the pandemic.
But as we try and deal with a ‘second wave’, having done everything in our power to support our tourism and hospitality businesses and seen those businesses do everything necessary (and more) to make themselves safe for guests, we now have to cope with the complexities of a new ‘tier’ system of restrictions.
Today, the county has joined Liverpool in the highest tier – level 3, and I, like many others, am finding this new strategy difficult to fathom. Instead of dividing us all into ‘tiers’, surely we should be working together? The whole idea of putting different places into different tiers is not just confusing, but actively divisive, in so many ways.
It is effectively villainising people, places and entire sectors of the economy. It is simply not fair. And it is the absolute opposite of ‘levelling up’. We of course recognise that there need to be restrictions in place, but I believe they should apply to the whole country. Not a national lock-down. A national effort to abide by an agreed set of rules.
We are in very challenging times, and we do not underestimate the need to bring the virus under control, and that we all need to play our part in achieving that. However, if the behaviour that makes the most difference is ‘hands/face/space’ then let us focus on doing that.
We are confident that Lancashire’s tourism and hospitality venues are able to welcome people in a Covid-safe, responsible way. We are also confident that our visitors are both loyal and responsible. They will not come if they have symptoms or have been told to isolate. They will only visit in their own household or ‘bubble’ groups. They will wash their hands, wear their face coverings and keep their distance from others.
Yet, here we are, at ‘very high’ alert level and with Government advising people not to travel. The impact of this could be devastating. We are currently exploring what extra financial support will be available for businesses affected by these new restrictions, and we know that there will be very many of you. Even if not ‘forced to close’, many businesses may not find it financially viable to stay open and we are working closely with colleagues in our local authorities to understand what additional support can be made available. As soon as we have further information we will of course let you know straight away.
It is easy to feel like we’re drowning under multiple interpretations of information and mis-guided ‘blame’, at a time when we should be pulling together as a nation and supporting each other. In Lancashire itself we must continue to look to our own neighbourhoods for goods, services and hospitality, wherever available. Our loyalty and support is the only way to ensure that these businesses survive into the future, when we will be able to once again enjoy them without restriction.
I am in no doubt that Lancashire will continue to show great resilience, innovation and consideration for our neighbours and visitors, as we have throughout 2020. Please do let us know if there is anything that we can do to help whilst we wait for detail on the new support available. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org