We've made gains but we're not out of the woods yet, says Matt Hancock MP
Earlier this week, the government took Step 3 of our roadmap to recovery as restrictions were further lifted on our plan to offer a route back to a more normal life.
We will now have several weeks to assess the situation before making a decision on June 14 whether or not to proceed with the lifting of all Covid restrictions currently scheduled for ‘not before’ June 21.
It has been a long and sometimes bumpy road, and we are not out of the woods yet, but we have made many gains since the beginning of the year due to the effectiveness of the vaccine, the great number of the people who have come forward to be vaccinated when they got the call up, and the vigilance of the public to follow the rules since the pandemic started.
Recently, we have seen non-essential retail open last month and indoor hospitality reopened earlier this week. Both areas are incredibly important to the economy. Retail employs 2.9 million people in the UK and has a £403 billion turnover. The hospitality sector in the country employs 3.2 million people and has a turnover of £130 billion. Locally it’s been great to see our town centres opening up again, but there’s still a long way to go to recovery.
Our government has supported these sectors since the beginning the pandemic with the furlough scheme to retain jobs and generous grants to keep businesses going until they were able to trade properly following the lockdowns. We have done a tremendous amount of work to ensure that many of these businesses could be sustained.
In my West Suffolk constituency, the government has provided 2,300 loans, through the Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme and the Bounceback Loan Scheme, in total worth over £92 million.
Now, after the lockdowns of recent months we need the public to get out there and support our local businesses.
Retail is the backbone of the economy; we have been called a nation of shopkeepers and going to our local pub is an institution of British life. We can now dine indoors in groups of up to six people and stay overnight away from home.
Domestic tourism will benefit from the wise decision of much of the public to be cautious and choose to have holidays this year in the UK over the option of travelling abroad.
We can be so proud of what we have achieved. Thanks to the successful vaccination programme, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There will no doubt be bumps in the road ahead but I’m glad we can see our way out, and back towards the things we love but have been unable to do for so long.
-- Matt Hancock is MP for West Suffolk and Health Secretary