Fife business leader welcomes extra funding but new COVID measures a blow to hospitality and events
Fife’s business leader has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement of additional funding to help businesses most affected – but says the new restrictions represent a ‘huge blow to hospitality and event businesses’.
Alan Mitchell, chief executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, spoke after the announcement by Nicola Sturgeon in Parliament on Tuesday when she revealed new restrictions will come into effect from Boxing Day.
From December 26, for up to three weeks, there will be a limit on the size of live public events in Scotland - 500 for outdoor events, indoors 200 seated or 100 standing.
This will mean sports such as football matches will have to take place without spectators and large-scale Hogmanay celebrations, such as Edinburgh's world famous party, have been cancelled.
And from December 27 for three weeks, all hospitality venues in Scotland will have to operate on a table service only basis if they serve alcohol – and groups of people will be limited to three households.
There will also be a rule on one-metre physical distancing.
Ms Sturgeon also pledged a further £100m of support for businesses which brings the total support fund, with the addition of UK Treasury money, to £375m.
Giving his reaction, Mr Mitchell said: “We can perhaps be relieved that the new restrictions don’t go as far as many of us feared and thankful that there is at least some additional money available to help the businesses most affected.
“But they still represent a huge blow to the hospitality and event businesses they fall on and we are still all left wondering just what additional measures might subsequently be introduced to tackle the, yet unsubstantiated, threat of Omicron.
“The Scottish Government does not know it will definitely push up rates of hospitalisation, serious illness or death: if it had such evidence, it would have released it.
“Looking ahead, it should not impose further restrictions unless the harm caused by higher transmission of Omicron will exceed the harm caused by additional restrictions.
“Two years into this pandemic we know that stop/start lockdowns and restrictions damage mental health, fracture communities and families, harm education, create a huge backlog of NHS treatment, put companies out of business, threaten jobs and livelihoods and push the public finances into the danger zone.
“They must all be modelled and subject to expert scrutiny and comment to the same extent that Omicron transmission and hospitalisation rates are. They effect too many people to be ignored or paid lip service to.”
He added: “The Scottish Government can only make informed decisions that will have full public support and fulfil their core responsibility to protect their citizens from harm when it takes account of all the relevant information before deciding what the appropriate course of action is.”
Meanwhile Ms Sturgeon also confirmed the advice for Christmas remains unchanged.
But from December 27, she is urging people to go back to limiting contacts as much as possible and has asked that this include New Year socialising.
The first minister says it will be a priority to re-open schools as normal after the festive break.