This week the Wear region, along with the rest of the North-East, found itself categorised as Tier 2 in terms of the Government’s new Covid-19 restrictions.
Merseyside was the only area in the country put under the highest level of restrictions, Tier 3.
We asked businesses and business leaders on Wearside how important was it for our area to stay out of Tier 3 in the short-term and how important it was to stay out of it in the long-term.
Here’s what they said…
Austin Carney, managing director, Infinite Durham
On the face of it, for many people perhaps, there might not seem much difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3, but for businesses like ours, which are focussed on leisure, it can be huge.
Under Tier 2, we’re offering limited openings – the trampoline park, the outdoor football offerings, the food services, including Lickety Split – are all open and taking bookings. It’s highly likely Tier 3 would close us.
For a business that normally welcomes 500,000 visitors a year, that’s massive.
Our busiest week of the year in 2020 was half-term in February, our second busiest week is projected to be half-term at the end of October, a couple of weeks from now, so for that reason, we really, really need the Wear region to stay in Tier 2 and try to get infections going down, rather than going the other way.
Al Yong, managing director, Rymote ultrafast broadband installers
Tier 3 is about as close to lockdown as you get without locking down so, from a business point of view, it is massive for the North-East to have avoided it so far and imperative to the region’s business that it continues to do so.
Some lessons from the Covid-19 crisis have been easy to learn.
As a company which installs ultra-fast rural broadband in homes and businesses across the Wear region, the Covid-19 crisis has only underlined the importance of having high-quality gigabit internet service in our own homes, in schools and on premises.
But other conclusions are harder to reach – do we go for circuit-breaking Lockdown or Tier structure? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
One thing which remains key is keeping schools open for as long as possible everywhere. Education not only employs huge numbers of people and develops the next generation of workers, it also frees up millions of workers from childcare during business hours.
Graham Soult, retail consultant at CannyInsights.com and vice-chairman at Durham Business Group
Clearly, it’s a relief that the Wear region has avoided Tier 3, for now.
From working with retailers in Chester-le-Street and Durham, I’ve seen just how resilient and creative traders have been during and since the original lockdown.
It’s testament to their determination – and the welcome government support that many received – that business closures have, so far, been kept to a minimum.
However, there’s a limit to how much pressure any business can sustain.
Even in Tier 2, with household mixing banned, trading for many businesses, especially bars and restaurants, is tough.
The full closure of hospitality and beauty businesses under Tier 3 would be a big blow, especially if there is limited financial support to mitigate those impacts.
Right now, we must all do whatever we can to slow the spread of the virus, while supporting those local businesses that are so important to our communities.
Louise Hardy, business development manager, Sunderland BIC
In terms of business, it would be disastrous for Sunderland and surrounding areas if it were to go into complete lockdown.
Tier 3 is almost as bad as that, and I’m hoping that the communities of Wearside realise that Tier 2 is also challenging and they must do everything they can as individuals to adhere to all the guidelines and do their bit to reduce the chance of it spreading.
So many businesses have struggled so much and worked so hard to cope, that you have to fear from a mental health point of view, if they were suddenly closed down completely again.
Keeping open gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, and so on in Tier 2, gives a lot more businesses a fighting chance and now I’m just keeping fingers crossed that the public redoubles their efforts and helps get it under control.
Jonathan Walker, policy director, North East England Chamber of Commerce
It is welcome news that, for the time being, businesses in our region are not being closed. However, we are deeply concerned that significant additional support to get on top of this crisis appears to be linked to an agreement to move to Tier 3.
Government needs to be working with local leaders and providing areas with the resources to prevent them from being escalated to a higher tier.
Businesses are being put through intolerable and constant pressure about whether they are going to be asked to close at short notice. This is not acceptable.
They need to be consulted with by national and local Government to ensure we all work closely to combat this pandemic.