SWINDON’S businesses, health and political leaders have reacted with resignation to news of the second national coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking after Boris Johnson announced the four week lockdown, the chief executive of Swindon’s hospital said the next month would be “critical” for GWH.
However, business leaders warned of the impact a second lockdown could have on firms, but acknowledged something needed to happen to stop the spread of the virus.
Phil Smith, Business West managing director, said the month’s restrictions would be “shattering” for businesses forced to shut.
He added: “Many companies have worked hard to make their workplaces and services covid-safe. So, necessary that this seems to be, it will be a bitter disappointment to all and ruinous for some.”
The change in covid cases in Swindon since March Source: GOV.UK
Kris Talikowski, deputy chairman of the Old Town Business Association, said: “It’s a necessary decision which will be another challenge to face for Old Town businesses.
The association planned to launch a Friends of Old Town loyalty card aimed at encouraging people to support the area’s shops. He added: “We are a resilient collective of independent business owners and we’ve all been expecting something like this and so however tough we are prepared to ride it out if the people of Swindon support us.”
Family-run hair salon Goldsworthy’s will open its doors from 8am to 8pm until Thursday in an effort to see as many clients as possible before lockdown strikes.
Steven Goldsworthy said it was “disappointing” that the lockdown was being applied to Swindon, where the case rate has been lower, saying: “As an industry, we’ve all been abiding by the rules; people have had to wear masks, visors and aprons. We’ve been working really, really hard to keep everyone safe.”
Mark Kemp, landlord of The Sun Inn, Coate, said: “It is what it is, I suppose. We had everything in place to try and avoid closure.” He tried to look on the bright side, adding: “It will give us time to get the pub ready for Christmas.”
Great Western Hospital chief executive Kevin McNamara said the country was in a “very precarious position”.
The number of coronavirus cases there has jumped from only suspected cases in September to 22 confirmed cases, with 18 suspected cases over the weekend. “The next four weeks is going to be absolutely critical for us,” he told the Adver.
Swindon Borough Council leader Coun David Renard told the Adver: “I think under the circumstances the Prime Minister really didn’t have any choice. I can appreciate it’s going to be very difficult for businesses and people who have to stay at home, but I think the extension of the furlough scheme is really positive.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said the lockdown would “protect the NHS”.
Asked why Swindon, with lower case rates than much of the rest of England, should follow the worst-affected parts of the country into a second lockdown, Mr Buckland said: “The rising rate of hospital admissions in our region and the rising rate of Covid infections too meant that doing nothing further was not an option.”
The lockdown announcement came as:
Announcing the new measures on Saturday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day – a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April.”
From Thursday, people will only be allowed out the house for exercise, to do essential shopping, go to work where they cannot work from home, to volunteer, to seek medical help or in emergencies. Leisure facilities, restaurants, pubs and non-essential retail businesses must close.
Unlike in the spring, schools, colleges and universities will remain open. There will be no requirement for people to shield. The furlough scheme will be extended until December.
Yesterday, cabinet minister Michael Gove admitted that although the lockdown is due to end on December 2 it could be extended if the number of Covid cases remains high.