Over the last two months we have seen an unprecedented and world-leading business support package delivered by the government, designed to keep firms going during the lockdown and to preserve jobs. Over £30 billion of finance has been provided through the different business loan and support schemes. Many local firms, large and small have used the furlough scheme to help protect the incomes of their staff.
As the COVID-19 restrictions are starting to be eased, more businesses this week have returned to work. The fine weather has also brought people out to enjoy the beaches, seafront and public parks. The social distancing guides remain in place though, that people should remain two metres apart in order to restrict the spread of the virus. The NHS’s new test and trace scheme will also mean that we can start to move from requiring people to stay at home, to a more targeted system where those who are believed to have been in contact with someone who has been tested for COVID-19 will be asked to self-isolate.
However, as the Prime Minister has warned, if the reinfection rate for the virus starts to go up again, then the social restrictions may need to be tightened once more. This uncertainty is challenging for us all, but particularly so for businesses that rely for their income on people being able to visit. The social distancing requirements will severely limit the ability of hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants to re-open. For theatres, more that 70% of their revenue comes from selling tickets, and for football clubs, particularly those playing below the top two tiers in England, the Premier League and the Championship, more than 80% of their income comes as a result of playing matches in front of spectators. Whilst it would be possible to spread people out within venues like these, it is almost impossible to preserve social distancing for access into and out of them, or for visitors using the facilities. Yet these businesses are vital to the cultural life of the nation, they bring people together and animate our towns and cities. It is vital we ensure that these organisations within our cultural, sporting and hospitality sectors are given the support the need to survive until the social distancing measures are removed.
There was good news last week for broadband users in New Romney. Trooli, a Kent based full fibre broadband provider has announced that it will be making its service available for new customers in the town. Trooli’s ultrafast fibre connectivity is delivered direct into a customer’s premises with guaranteed upload and download speeds of between 300Mbps and 900Mbps. This compares with average UK broadband speeds of 54.2Mbps for downloads and 7.2Mbps for uploads, although we know that on Romney Marsh the speeds can often be far lower. It’s good to see competition from different providers seeking to improve the quality of the service available to local residents. This follows a similar initiative launched by the same firm in Hawkinge early this year.