'It is a step in the right direction' Portsmouth politicians, health leaders and business owners react to Plan B Covid-19 restrictions being scrapped

POLITICIANS, health leaders and business owners from Portsmouth have welcomed the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 5:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 5:41 pm

Boris Johnson announced Plan B measures, in response to the Omicron variant, will be lifted from next week.

This will put an end to restrictions such as mandatory mask wearing and vaccine passports.

Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, welcomed the relaxation but understood some of the public concern.

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Mask wearers in Palmerston Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 030721-18)

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She told The News: ‘I’m glad to see restrictions relaxed, but I know there will be some people who are worried about this, especially the clinically vulnerable.

‘As we get back to normal, we should all be courteous to people who have such concerns.

‘We also need to keep our foot on the vaccine throttle.’

Plan B was implemented in December to tackle the rising number of Covid cases.

The new Omicron strain was considered to be more transmissible, so measures were put in place to stop the spread.

This included mandatory Covid passes at various indoor venues and events, enforced mask wearing on public transport and advice to work from home where possible.

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said the impact of restrictions was too much to bare.

He told The News: ‘We must learn to live well with Covid, which is why Labour’s plan focuses on preventing new variants crossing our borders through pre-departure tests, improving sick pay for all workers, ensuring sufficient supply of tests and prioritising them for key workers.

‘We cannot continue to see our local economy, education of our children and daily lives and liberties needlessly impacted by the complete mismanagement of this crisis by government.’

Hospitalisations caused by Covid have been slowly falling.

Councillor Simon Bosher, Conservative group leader in Portsmouth, was positive about the news but wanted people to remain vigilant.

He said: ‘It is a step in the right direction.

‘I’d still be cautious, and I still intend to wear a mask in public spaces, but that is a personal preference because I have elderly relatives.

‘They were the right measure at the time they were required, but we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid going forward.’

Health officials in the city have also supported the relaxations and the freedom for individual choice.

Roger Batterbury, chairman of Portsmouth Healthwatch, said: ‘We have seen how the public have behaved responsibly to try to limit the spread of Covid-19 during the last two years.

‘People will individually and collectively decide whether to still wear a mask, practice social distancing and use hand sanitiser when they are mixing with other people.’

Businesses have been hit hard since the restrictions were implemented.

Many restaurants and nightclubs struggled with the uncertainty from the public and mass cancellations last month.

Owner of Portsmouth nightclub Astoria, Alistair Ritchie said although his business didn’t struggle as badly since Plan B was enforced, a lack of restrictions was essential for returning to normal life.

He said: ‘We probably lost a few percent of customers when it first happened, but people quickly adjusted to it.

‘Our optimism has to lie with the hope that these are the last of the ongoing restrictions, and hopefully as a society, we are able to learn to live with this.

‘I’m fairly confident this could be the last of it, and I think society as a whole has had enough of covid, not just our industry, but the majority of society.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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