‘We need to come down to Tier 1’ - business leader’s plea to bring infection rates down

Paul Clement has appealed to people to work together to bring infection numbers down enough to take Suffolk into Tier 1.

Paul Clement has appealed to people to work together to bring infection numbers down enough to take Suffolk into Tier 1. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Businesses and residents are being urged to do all they can to ensure Suffolk can move into more relaxed Tier 1 Covid restrictions.

Ady Smith warned it could already be too late for pubs to take advantage of any Christmas trade. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ady Smith warned it could already be too late for pubs to take advantage of any Christmas trade. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement has written a letter urging everyone to do what they can to bring down infection figures, which in turn could allow the government to move Suffolk into Tier 1 at its review of coronavirus restrictions next week.

That would allow pubs to serve drinks without a substantial meal and people from different households to meet indoors.

MORE: Tom Hunt hopes to come down to Tier 1

He said the letter is aimed at trying to help the hospitality sector that is missing out on the busiest time of the year – potentially putting some at risk of closing permanently.

Mr Clement said: “We need to come down to Tier 1. It could make a huge difference to those businesses – and we know there is going to be a review next week. We need everyone to work to get the numbers down.”

However, the landlord of the Dove Street Inn, in Ipswich, warned that any change could be too late for many businesses.

Ady Smith said: “A decision next week would be too late for Christmas – we would have to get the beer ordered, delivered and settled and that takes a week to arrange.

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“So if they allowed it from December 16, we couldn’t serve it until two days before Christmas.

“Whatever happens, many pubs are likely to go under after all this.”

There was concern this week when Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey warned that rising numbers of Covid cases at Ipswich Hospital made it unlikely that Suffolk would be moved into Tier 1.

However, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt felt there was still a chance of that happening after attending the same Zoom meeting with Dr Coffey.

He said: “I didn’t feel any more worried after the meeting than I had been before.”

MORE: Therese Coffey warns of rising pressure on hospital

But he is not too optimistic about the chances of Suffolk moving down a tier at the review next week: “I think there is a realistic chance that might happen if we do manage to keep the number of infections coming down, if we all work hard to reduce the number of infections.

“But I would not say I was totally confident because, although numbers are generally low and are coming down, there are some areas where they are relatively high.”

Paul Clement’s letter in full:

This year has been devastating for so many local communities. Suffolk and Ipswich are poorer for our COVID-19 experience – we have lost loved ones, we have missed shared experiences, and our economy has experienced a severe shock. This time of year is, traditionally, one of renewal and togetherness; yet, we know that this Christmas will be very different.

However, it is traditionally also a time of optimism and so my organisation is leading a 16-day awareness campaign to highlight just how different Christmas in Suffolk will be if we are adjudged to be best suitable to Covid tier 1 status, rather than our existing tier 2 position. Everyone can help with this.

As a reminder, when the government determined the current allocations on 27th November, Suffolk had amongst the lowest infection rates, closest to the three lowest areas of Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly and lower than any other region in England. It might be said that we were, at best, unfortunate or, at worst, unfairly judged.

So, what difference does a tier make? Well, if we could make Tier 1 when government next announce changes on 16th December, Christmas in Suffolk would include meeting in groups of up to 6 persons in our homes, thereby relaxing the current restrictions of no mixing beyond our own households. That would make a huge difference to so many within our communities.

However, it is on behalf of the business sector that I primarily write, particularly the licensed sector which has made it clear that it cannot operate profitably in tier 2. As a consequence, we risk the imminent closure of numerous pubs and restaurants and the consequent job losses that will follow.

As a reminder, in Tier 2, pubs that serve only beverages cannot open and those that can supply a ‘substantial meal’ alongside drinks are only allowed to serve people from the same household. Tier 1 this Christmas would mean all pubs and bars could reopen, presuming they are deemed Covid safe and we would be able to meet within them in groups of 6.

And it is this next week that is crucial for those businesses. Therefore, I am asking your readers to be extra vigilant – to wash hands ever more frequently, to wear masks with pride and to maintain social distancing.

If, together, we can help to get Suffolk into tier 1 for Christmas we can help each other, save local businesses and look forward with greater optimism to a brighter new year. Please help us by doing your part and spreading the word.

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