‘We need a more compassionate response’ – 100 businesses sign petition against Christmas restrictions

A HUNDRED businesses in Gwynedd have signed an open letter against First Minister Mark Drakeford’s latest coronavirus restrictions, which have caused many to “hang by a thread”.

The letter, organised by Charlie Evans, Senedd candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, stated that the hospitality and tourism sector is “deeply worried” about the impact the restrictions have had on Christmas trading.

It said that due to the lower level of transmission compared to the south, Gwynedd should not face “extreme measures” including the closure of non-essential shops.

“It was not acceptable to give us just seven hours’ notice of these latest changes,” the letter said. “Many of our businesses hang by a thread.

“Your one size-fits-all, blanket approach in Wales is damaging our pubs, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, holiday lets and other businesses.”

It continued: “Hospitality is the biggest private sector employer in the area and we help fund the public services we all rely on. We predominantly serve rural communities and therefore collectively help combat social problems too such as loneliness and isolation. And our businesses truly are at the heart of our local communities and we want that to continue. But your measures are doing irreversible damage to the sector.”

The letter was signed by the Gwynedd Hospitality business group, founded by Mr Evans in opposition to the latest restrictions, which has risen to more than 300 members across the county in 72 hours.

Signers included pubs, cafes, holiday cottages, B&B and hotel owners, as well as outdoor activity businesses from Anglesey to Bala.

They also called for a list of changes to the coronavirus restrictions, including a regional lockdown approach, an end to the ban on the sale of alcohol and for detailed scientific evidence behind decision-making to be published.

Mr Evans, who will stand for the Welsh Conservatives at the Senedd Elections in 2021, said: “The First Minister and Welsh Government are in an unenviable position – having to balance the spread of the coronavirus versus the other health and economic challenges of Wales.

“However, with an increasing number of people being made redundant in North West Wales, with more business owners filing for bankruptcy and rural communities becoming more isolated than ever before, it’s vital restrictions are proportionate.

“In England, we see different tiers that reflect the various rates of transmission- Herefordshire in Tier 1, London and the South East in Tier 4. In the letter, we make clear to Mr Drakeford that we want regional tiers to be implemented immediately. One size does not fit all.”

Steve Pooley, owner of Bryn Melyn Farm Cottages in Llandderfel, said he was “heartbroken” after having to call a family whose mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer to say their holiday could not go ahead.

“Last night I had to phone and explain to our Christmas guests that we had to cancel their booking despite our area having such a low Covid infection rate, due to Welsh Government’s latest restrictions,” he said.

“I had a lump in my throat as I made this call. Our cottages had been rented out by a family group who were hoping to make things as special as possible with all their young kids together for one last Christmas with their Mum.

“She has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is expected to live only a few more short months.

“There won’t be any more Christmases together for this young family, this is not about the money any more for us. We need a more compassionate response from the First Minister.”

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey