Confusion as Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant go into tier three - but Fareham, East Hampshire and Winchester stay in tier two
THE decision that Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant will face tougher coronavirus restrictions – but not the rest of Hampshire – has been branded as ‘bizarre’ by a senior politician.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that all three areas will go into tier three at 12.01am on Saturday.
This means that you cannot meet indoors with anyone outside your support bubble – although you can meet in groups of six in outdoor public places.
Hospitality venues like bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway collection.
Case numbers have been rising across the south east, and a new strain of the virus was also discovered in the region.
But Fareham, Winchester and East Hampshire will all remain in tier two.
Portsmouth City Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, says going into tier three is crucial to ease pressure on Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, and wants to know why these other areas haven’t been included.
He said: ‘There’s big pressure on QA Hospital at the moment and that is the driving force here. But what’s strange is that people in Fareham and East Hampshire also use QA, but will stay in tier two.
‘The government’s ability to get things right seems to be not great but the government has made a number of bizarre decisions, so it’s no surprise they have made another one.
‘The hospitality industry being shut down will make things difficult for businesses, but our numbers have been going up and we need to get that under control.
‘My advice is to be careful; don’t use all the freedoms available if you don’t have to.’
When travelling into tier two areas, people from tier three must observe the same rules as they do at home.
This means that although Fareham’s hospitality venues will remain open, people from Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant should not visit them.
Portsmouth Conservative Councillor Donna Jones told The News she posted on social media yesterday saying tier three was likely for Portsmouth, so restaurateurs and businesses would know as they order produce mid-week.
Cllr Jones said one business alone said it 'saved thousands' because of the early warning.
She said: 'That's the reason I shared it yesterday, following the official council briefing I had yesterday lunchtime because I know how many businesses were hurt so badly (at the end) of March beginning of April when we had lockdown.
'They lost thousands, some businesses in Pompey lost £20,000 of produce.
'We lost small businesses, independent traders in the hospitality industry because of that.’
Independent businesses are the ones that will be the worst hit, is is feared.
One such company is The Reilly Enterprise in Gosport, which organises indoor and outdoor events – all of which will now be cancelled.
Founder Charlie Reilly said: ‘Our annual turnover this year is about 10 per cent of what it usually is.
‘There were Christmas events and outdoor go-karting sessions planned for next week, but that will all now be refunded instead.
‘We will do everything we can to continue operating but this is a massive blow for us.’
Charlie’s husband Johnny had even taken on a part-time job to help cover the business costs.
David Moore, director of the Abar restaurant in Southsea, said that entering tier three gave his firm clarity as it will not have to cover many overheads, such as wages.
He said: ‘If I am honest, it’s a sense of relief, we will lose less money by being closed.
‘Tier two has been excruciating with single households, no drinkers without substantial meals, we have been taking in a quarter of what we normally would and have had to throw away food, last weekend we threw away 40kg of mussels.
‘By being closed we will know exactly how much we are going to lose because being open is a flexible animal and if they move us back to tier two, I am not sure if we would reopen as it’s not worth coming out for from our recent experience.’
Hampshire Chamber, which provides advice for businesses across the county, has taken the stance that mass workplace testing is the key to getting the country back up and running.
Chief executive and executive chairman Ross McNally said: ‘This is dreadful news for families, communities and businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector who have already been hit extremely hard by the impact of the pandemic.
‘The priority must be to get the whole of Hampshire into tier one as quickly as we can. The only way to achieve that is to follow the guidance as we await the roll-out of the vaccine programme. For its part, the government must urgently improve test and trace, with more emphasis on mass workplace testing, and continue to provide financial help to those businesses struggling to stay afloat.
‘Hampshire firms have consistently demonstrated their resilience but we need to make sure the county benefits from as much government support that can be made available so we can emerge from this crisis as quickly and strongly as possible.
‘Hampshire Chamber will continue to do our best to help businesses, working in partnership with local and central government and other organisations, as we look to recovery.’