Anne Marie's Weekly Column - COVID-19 Update

Summer Opening

Devon continues to have one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the country due to the outstanding efforts from our key workers in the NHS and social care. We are in an excellent position to reopen more fully in July. Pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums, galleries, and hairdressers can reopen from 4th July, provided they implement COVID guidelines.  The biggest change is moving from a 2 metre to a 1 metre social distance in places where 2 metre distancing is not possible. Without that change, many of these businesses could not have opened at all. I know there are many asking why gyms, nail bars and leisure centres are not included. I am hopeful these will be opening in mid-July.

People can now also enjoy summer holidays here with the reopening of hotels, caravan parks, and campsites. Visit England is introducing industry standards for social distancing and cleaning so the public can easily see if venues are carrying out the new rules. Swimming pools remain closed.

It is almost up to us again how we go about our lives and I encourage you all to show your support for businesses reopening in Teignbridge. Local shops and attractions are so important for our local economy and every visitor will help them bounce back. Use them or lose them as they say.

The Vulnerable

From Monday 6th July, those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors, while maintaining social distancing, and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household. While the bubble idea has helped us expand our social activities, I think the concept has also caused a degree of confusion. I have asked government to keep it simple as we go further – and to rely on people’s good judgement

From Saturday 1st August, the guidance will be relaxed further so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain, including from NHS volunteers and local councils, and people who have shielded will still be able to access priority supermarket delivery slots and other help.

Business and Planning Bill

The Business and Planning Bill was introduced to the House of Commons last week and includes a range of measures to help businesses adjust to new ways of working. It will be easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing. Businesses will be able to apply to their local authority for a ‘pavement licence’ which allows them to put removable furniture outside their premises for the purpose of selling food and drink. Almost all measures in the Bill are temporary however, with only a couple of exceptions, and are designed to remove the short term obstacles stopping businesses getting back on their feet.

Support for the agri-food and drinks industry

The food and drink industry is a vital part of our economy and now it needs more help than ever. Only 1 in 5 businesses in the sector export their produce so there is a huge opportunity to export more and take advantage of the many new trade agreements we are entering into. The Government announced a bounce-back package of trade and investment measures last week to help.

Among a number of initiatives to support the sector, fifty Food and Drink Export Champions will be used to engage and support aspiring exporters among the 97 per cent of small businesses that make up our food and drink industry. A new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot will also increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink industry. There will be webinars explaining how to export if you have never done this before. Any producers and manufacturers who are interested can access information and support at www.great.gov.uk.

My next phone-in surgery will be Thursday 9th July at 2-3pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.