Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, admitted the latest government bombshell had left him feeling ‘despondent’ as the area faces up to joining neighbouring authorities, Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in the strictest tier.
The reality that those areas had already been put in tier four following a dramatic announcement by the government at the weekend had made the latest move ‘inevitable’ according to the councillor – with businesses in the area also admitting they were resigned to the move.
But Cllr Woodward, speaking to The News, said the government announcement – that sees all of Hampshire go into tier four apart from the New Forest – was still a blow to everyone.
‘I’m not at all surprised especially when you see infection rates soaring. It was inevitable,’ he said.
‘Gosport, Portsmouth and Havant are seeing infection rates going up and Fareham is also steaming ahead.
‘You just feel so despondent. There has been so much money spent and so much disruption to lives but you still have to ask the question: are things any better than in March?
‘There has already been so much sacrifice. I just hope people get through this safely.
‘We could be in tier four for months until the vaccine program is rolled out.’
Speaking of the impact on businesses, the councillor added: ‘It is catastrophic. You get statutory grants but it is nothing like what you are losing.
‘The boom businesses will be food and supermarkets and everyone else will suffer.’
Businesses in Fareham said they were not surprised by the move but were struggling to deal with the uncertainty.
Dominico Valente, owner of Razor Sharp Barbers in Miller Drive, said: ‘It was inevitable but it’s not great, especially when you don’t know how long it will be for.
‘No one understood how Fareham was not in tier four when all the areas around us were.
‘We were fully booked until January 2 and will now have to refund our customers. I thought they would do a lockdown in the New Year as a trade off for Christmas but then Christmas got cancelled.
‘You can’t prepare, you don’t know what’s going to happen.’
Ron Challiss, landlord of The Fareham Pub, in Trinity Street, said: ‘It was not unexpected – it’s an extension of what they have been doing. Everyone around us was put into tier four.
‘I just hope things get better. The government does help but it is so slow to come through. We will struggle through but it’s not good for morale.’
Neil Matthews, landlord of The Delme Arms in Portchester, said: 'I'm devastated. Hospitality has been given absolutely no consideration by the government.
'I've already bought all the food stock in and now hundreds and hundreds of pounds worth of food will have to go to waste.
‘The government told us we all have to act as restaurants so pubs have been buying food in and now they've given us essentially less than 36 hours’ notice. I think it's outrageous the way we've been treated by government.'
Simon Dampier, owner of Heathen Chemistry Record shop in West Street, said he was ‘not surprised’ with him expecting Fareham to be put into tier four last weekend.
‘This year is a write-off,’ he said. ‘I feel sorry for the government because their hands are tied. Without them we wouldn’t be here now so I can’t knock them.
‘In the summer there were protests and people going to the beach and a massive spike was expected but it didn’t happen and everyone thought “we can do what we want” and now it is worse than before.
‘I can’t see it lasting for more than a year from now, but it all depends on the vaccine.’
Councillor Keith Mans, leader of Hampshire County Council, said: ‘While this announcement may come as a surprise, given that many will have been expecting the next statutory tier review to take place on December 30, it is a reflection of rapidly rising infection rates across our county and the impact on local hospitals.
‘Therefore, it is crucial that we all take the necessary steps to protect the public’s health – particularly those who are elderly or clinically extremely vulnerable. It’s the right thing to do.’