A BROMSGROVE landlord has expressed fears for his and other hospitality businesses’ livelihoods with the furlough scheme coming to an end and further lockdown restrictions looming if the district is placed into Tier 2.
Josh Matheson, who has run the Black Cross on Worcester Road for the past 18 months, said he felt the current restrictions were doing more harm than good – both to business and people’s mental health and wellbeing – and is calling for a different approach to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Thousands of jobs have already been lost in the hospitality industry over the past few months and when the furlough scheme comes to an end on Saturday I fear there will be more redundancies.
“I know people who have lost everything after building it up for ten or 15 years.”
Mr Matheson operated another pub in Malvern but that one closed.
He said since March his staffing costs had increased by 30 per cent to implement all the measures needed to reopen but revenue had halved.
“The brewery has been great and helped me out but not everyone has that support.
“If this approach was working and the number of infections and deaths were coming down then there would be some justification for keeping the restrictions short-term until things picked up. But it’s not.”
He added if the businesses could operate more freely there would not be the need for so much support from Government.
“The funds used bailing out businesses would be better spent on healthcare and infection control for those who needed to be protected.”
He pointed to the Great Barrington Declaration – a theory whereby the elderly and vulnerable are protected through a targeted approach but the majority, who would only be mildly affected by the virus, carry on more or less as they used to.
Mr Matheson said a lot of money had been invested by the hospitality sector in safety measures and track and trace and venues could be safely managed with less restrictions.
Bromsgrove, with a rate of 174 per 100,000, has been warned it could be placed in Tier 2 which would mean, as well as other restrictions, people could only go to pubs and restaurants with others in their own household.
Mr Matheson added he feared if that happened it would be the end of his business.
Frontline Hagley Doctor David Nicholl warned against the Great Barrington Declaration approach and has signed the John Snow Memorandum document opposing the document.
He said: “The problem is at some point younger people will come into contact with the elderly and vulnerable – for example care home workers.
“That approach would not work with other viruses, such as measles, and it would not work here.”
He added the countries which had been the most successful had been Japan, Vietnam, and New Zealand which used a robust public health response to control transmission. After getting the rate to as low as it could be people in those countries are now living lives close to how they were pre-Covid.
“When we came out of lockdown in July it was too early – there were still 500 cases-a-day and it needed to be lower.”
He said the main aim at the moment should be to get through the winter and have a reliable Track and Trace system operated by Public Health experts rather than Serco.