Throughout the last few months, on every front, we have all had to try to work out how to return to something closer to normal life while recognising that we have to live alongside the virus for some time to come. Measures we have put in place have evolved from a full lockdown to steps that reduce the transmission of the disease through observing social distancing, wearing face masks and having localised restrictions where there are flare ups.
In the search for normality, many of us have taken up the opportunity to support local businesses which are so vital to our local economy here in Cornwall. Part of this has seen people partake in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme which throughout August, saw more than 100 million meals eaten, helping to protect the livelihoods of 1.8million people in the hospitality industry. On a local level we saw more than 128,000 meals claimed with 119 restaurants and hospitality businesses signed up to the scheme across the constituency.
The scheme has been a fantastic success and nationally has been credited with protecting 1.8million jobs across the country with restaurant bookings significantly up on the previous year. The Government recognises that the hospitality industry may continue to experience further difficulties in the months ahead and will continue to provide support with a temporary discount to VAT, from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, until 12 January 2021.
Across the South West, this message of the Government working to support businesses and the self-employed, has been clear for many to see with over £2billion in government grants being provided. The data confirms that Cornwall has received £246million in grants for businesses and highlights the unprecedented package of support to protect lives and livelihoods as we continue to work hard to protect, support and create jobs to ensure we come back stronger.
I know that in the weeks and months ahead, many will be apprehensive as schools return and many return to offices. It is also the case that the infection rate is starting to rise again and this is causing concern and means we now need to strengthen some of the rules around meetings in groups. A particular concern is younger people aged 18-24 who have been gathering in larger groups again and this is where the infection rate is starting to increase.
The new measures introduced this week are a reminder that we are far from being out of the woods. There is lots that we can do as individuals to protect ourselves, from regularly washing our hands, to wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and businesses are doing all that they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
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