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James Wild: Confidence the key to our recovery

The latest column from North West Norfolk MP James Wild during the pandemic period, Friday, July 17, 2020

People are naturally cautious about venturing out to pubs, restaurants, and attractions after lockdown. Venues that have opened have found it a steady start.

My experience of the pubs and restaurants I have been to in the last couple of weeks is that they have gone to great lengths to be Covid-secure.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (House of Commons/PA)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (House of Commons/PA)

Measures include taking contact details on arrival, staff wearing face coverings, hand sanitiser readily available, regular table cleaning, controlled access to toilets, dividers screen between tables, and more.

While it makes for a different experience from pre-Covid it is good to spend time eating out with friends or family and supporting local businesses.

So I would encourage anyone with concerns to talk to their local bar or restaurant about the precautions they have put in place – it is in their best interests to make sure you are reassured.

The new Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been set up to encourage people to start eating out again.

It gives a 50 per cent discount off the cost of a meal out in August including the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks. The discount applies from Monday to Wednesday up to a cap of £10 per person. Eligible businesses can now register for the scheme.

A further measure aimed at encouraging people to return to the high street safely is the policy requiring face coverings to be worn in shops. The scientific advice now supports this step which will become mandatory next Friday.

Back in March, I called for extra support for the tourism and hospitality sectors that are an important part of North West Norfolk’s economy. So I am delighted that the Chancellor has responded by cutting VAT on goods and service supplied by food services, attractions, and accommodation sectors from 20% to 5% for the next six months - this will give a much needed boost and help to protect jobs.

I spent last Friday morning back at school – Smithdon High School invited me to hear about their progress and see the impressive refurbishment of the food technology area, along with classrooms and ICT suites that around £1million of government funding has enabled. I also saw the challenges that the Marmite brutalist architecture causes.

I am working with the Trust to try and secure some additional funding to modernise and repair other parts of the school.

At the weekend, after buying local produce at the Farmers’ Market (including delicious rhubarb chocolate from Harrison Chocolatiers), I spent time talking to a local businessowner about the business she has built and how the restrictions on beauty salons to carry out facial treatments are holding her back.

She has put in place measures so that this can be done safely and I’m making the case to ministers.

It is thanks to the incredible efforts of everyone who followed the lockdown and social distancing rules that we now have the opportunity to once again enjoy our local businesses.

Let’s take it and enjoy summer safely.

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