Many retail and hospitality businesses are at risk of closure and businesses face problems recruiting staff.
That was the warning from one of the region's business experts as he gave his reaction to the prospect of the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnsons says the intention is to lift such restrictions on July 19.
But Mark Whittle, manager of the Preston City Centre Business Improvement District (BID), has issued a reminder that while any increase in business revenue will be much welcomed and needed, workers must feel safe. He said: “If existing rules such as mask wearing, social distancing and the rule of six are removed this is likely to encourage visitors to our town centres and for increased numbers using retail and hospitality venues. The increase in revenue is essential for these businesses, with many still at risk of closure. "
He continued: "However, staff must be made to feel safe. With retention in these sectors being very difficult at the moment, existing workers must be confident they can safely remain in these jobs. For our high streets to recover it is crucial that current workers remain and recruitment problems ease.”
Geoff Mason, policy manager at the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The removal of restrictions is something that the business community will broadly welcome. After more than a year of off and on closures and restrictions, getting back to some kind of normal is essential for the recovery of many businesses."
He continued: “Having operated with restrictions for so long, businesses will need guidance from the Government on their responsibilities and liabilities as part of any further easing. Clarity will also be needed on the next steps for testing, isolation, track and release, as well as how this will be applied and enforced.
“Whether confidence will return quickly as restrictions are removed, or whether people not wearing masks in shops and on public transport will reduce confidence, is yet to be tested. We will only find out once it happens.
“After so much uncertainty over the past year, we need to make sure that when the decision is made to remove restrictions that it is done when no backward step will be needed in the future. Businesses need to be able to focus on their recovery and rebuilding with the knowledge that restrictions won’t be re-imposed.”
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