Sadly, it seems that Covid-19 (now surely hot favourite for the title of Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year 2020) is making an unwelcome comeback. After a summer when it appeared that the virus, if not entirely banished, was at least quiescent, the number of cases detected are now on an upward trajectory.
In response to this, the Welsh Government (WG) has imposed movement restrictions in the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham; effectively, we are all now confined to our local authority area.
This has bizarre consequences. For example, a resident of Kinmel Bay in Conwy may drive the entire length of the county to, say, Dolwyddelan, but not across the Foryd bridge to Rhyl, a few hundred yards away in Denbighshire. It is hard to see much logic in this.
The restrictions are having a punitive impact upon tourism and hospitality, the mainstay of our local economy. Hotels, restaurants, cafés and pubs all depend primarily upon visitors from out of the area. When the movement restrictions were imposed, there was an immediate and adverse effect upon their businesses. I have been told of a normally highly profitable local café that took only £27 the day after the restrictions came into force. Its owner doubts whether she can continue to trade much longer.
To provide support for businesses affected by new lockdowns, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced an expansion of the Job Support Scheme. Firms whose premises are required to shut for some period over winter as part of local or national restrictions will receive grants to pay two-thirds of the wages of staff who cannot work, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
This is very welcome indeed. However, the expansion does not address the situation in North Wales, where hospitality businesses have not been shut, but are, effectively, unable to trade because of the WG movement restrictions.
I have therefore written to the Chancellor urging him to adjust his proposals to accommodate businesses that cannot reasonably operate because of restrictions imposed by the relevant administration. I very much hope he will do so.