Tier 3: Harlow businesses face uncertain future

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THE SURGE of Coronavirus R rates has prompted Harlow to transition from tier 2 into tier 3.

Residents from lower coronavirus transmission rates such as Tendring and Uttlesford raised concerns last week about the possibility of stricter lockdown measures, because figures implied that the Coronavirus R rates were relatively low in comparison with Essex as a whole.

Neighbouring districts, Uttlesford and East Hertfordshire, which border Harlow, have therefore remained in tier 2. This means that travel from tier 2 to tier 3 can be permitted but for essential journeys only. Despite the fact that tier 3 is very high risk, travel across other tiers is permitted, however not advised and travellers must follow tier 3 measures within those tiers.

Many businesses including the hospitality sector have significantly suffered during the pandemic, with continued local lockdown’s implemented, this only exacerbates the financial difficulties posed.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Leader of the opposition on Harlow Council and Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council issued a statement saying:  “We know that moving to tier 3 will have an impact on local businesses in the hospitality sector, at one of the busiest times of the year for trading. We will work with the government, Essex County Council and others to ensure that businesses get the support which is available and we continue to issue cash grants to those businesses affected by restrictions.”

The Hare, a traditional pub at the heart of Harlow, has been operating for 187 years, including during the Spanish Flu.

Manager Jason Lockwood said: “I’ve been watching the local news and with the numbers rising in Harlow I could see it coming; we have been reopened three times this year. During the time when London was placed in lockdown and all the pubs, restaurants and theatres were closed it didn’t make a lot of difference to the virus rates.”

“I don’t think they are the cause of the numbers going up. Pubs operate track and trace, but supermarkets don’t. In pubs tables are cleaned and sanitised between customers, we have paper throwaway menus. I think it’s safer in a pub, than in a supermarket …”

The Hare, owned by Hertfordshire family firm McMullens, is confident it will be back up and running once Harlow exits out of tier 3. However Jason said they might not reopen before February but they definitely would survive as they recuperated a lot during the eat-out scheme.

Popular Bush Fair restaurant, Garden of India, has not been as fortunate as some businesses that have been less affected by the new rules in Harlow. The manager, Mo Ahmed told our journalist Kian Foster, “I’ve gone from being a restaurant to becoming more of a takeaway. Being a restaurant, my price point is a lot higher than most takeaways out there, around 40%. Trade is not good at all at the moment.”

“With the one month lockdown, we knew it was only going to be a month, which allows us to prepare. However with the tier system it’s essentially the same thing but with no clear deadline on when it’ll end.”

Following the announcement of the tier system, Boris Johnson said it will be updated and reviewed every two weeks. As tier 3 was enforced in Harlow on December 16, this implies that on December 30, 2020 we can expect the next review. However, for the Christmas holidays there will be a planned relaxation for the tier rules commencing from December 23 – December 27 to allow families to mix safely.

It is unclear how long Harlow will remain in tier 3, but with wishful thinking we should be able to return back to our new normal by the new year.

Photo: Adriana Kussova

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Skye Stewart

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