'Freedom Day' hailed as 'key milestone' for Derbyshire businesses

The East Midlands Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the easing of nearly every Covid-19 restriction as a ‘key milestone’ for businesses in Derbyshire.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 11:31 am

Most businesses across Derbyshire have been dreaming of an end to coronavirus measures since the pandemic first started and wrecked havoc with multiple lockdowns and tiered systems that forced them to close for extensive periods of time.

While there has been a mixed reaction about whether Monday, July 19 was the right time to lift almost all restrictions – East Midlands Chamber of Commerce have welcomed the decision.

However chief executive Scott Knowles has warned Boris Johnson has to stick to his promise of the easing of measures being ‘irreversible’.

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Chesterfield town centre.

He said: “Today marks a hugely important milestone for businesses, which can finally look forward to a fully open and functioning economy after many have had their hands tied for the past 16 months.

“Lockdown has been tough on many different sectors, and those in hospitality, tourism, retail and events will now cherish the opportunity to stand on their own two feet with capacities edging towards being full again.

“We also welcome the Government’s plan to allow pavement dining and outdoor alcohol licences to continue for another year in order to help bars and restaurants claw back some of the lost income – although tackling the staff shortage this industry and others are facing will be another significant challenge to overcome as customer demand returns.

“We know this pandemic isn’t over, and companies will be assessing to what extent they retain certain Covid measures – just as they have done throughout the course of the pandemic – as ensuring the health and safety of their employees and customers is paramount.”

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles.

There has been concern nationally from businesses owners, particularly in the hospitality sector who are struggling to fill jobs in a post-pandemic world where many have taken career changes.

As well as this, some companies are shut today after staff members have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid test and trace app, requiring them to self isolate.

Mr Knowles added: “But as firms do their bit to keep the virus under control, we sincerely hope the Prime Minister keeps to his word that the end to lockdown restrictions will be ‘irreversible’, and that businesses can fully stand on their own two feet and realise the huge growth ambitions they have.

“In our latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2021, the State of the Economy Index – a measure of the region’s economic health compiled by aggregating various indicators – reached its highest level since Q3 2018.

“Steady recovery was replaced by big growth expectations, evidenced by a net 62% of East Midlands companies believing their turnover will improve over the coming quarter and a net 41% saying their workforce would grow as a result.

“This huge uplift in confidence has been fuelled by the success of the vaccine rollout and continued reopening of the economy, but any reversal in policy could have a catastrophically negative impact affecting livelihoods and jobs.”

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