"If we don’t know now how to look after ourselves ...the Government have an argument to say ‘How much nannying do you need?’ “

Frank McKenna of Downtown in Business says there is a longer road to recovery than just easing Covid restrictions
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When the masks come off the business community will be delighted, predicts Frank McKenna.

The Chief Executive of the Downtown in Business lobbying group believes UK residents do not want to live in a nanny state and most certainly should not live in one.

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But dispensing with masks is but one welcome step on the road back to business normality.

Frank McKenna, Chief Executive  of north west based Downtown in BusinessFrank McKenna, Chief Executive  of north west based Downtown in Business
Frank McKenna, Chief Executive of north west based Downtown in Business

He said: “I think there will be a lot of relief from many in the business community, particularly those in the hospitality sector who’ve had 14 months of hell in Lancashire really ... Eat In To Help Out seems a far away and distant memory!”

He said such establishments had struggled through the changing regulations in the pandemic and predicted: “They’ll be relieved to get back to a degree of normality.”

But Frank says it is not just the food, drink and hospitality sector which will welcome easing of lockdown restrictions, but the business sector as a whole, because all are connected in a wider ecosystem and the pandemic had impacted all businesses.

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He said: “I think it’s the start of a still long process. It’s going to take a good 12 months for any of these companies to get back into normal trading patterns.”

Frank continued: “In terms of the changes to mask wearing and social distancing my view is if we don’t know now how to look after ourselves in terms of wearing a mask in crowded places or if we feel concerned to do so, keeping your distance from people not from your immediate circle and washing hands - if you’re not prepared to do this after all this time I think the Government have an argument to say ‘How much nannying do you need?’ “

Whilesympathetic to those apprehensive about lessening restrictions he said: “Ultimately we can’t go on like this. We do need to learn to live with Covid and it’s not going away. People do have to take more responsibility. We’re not a nanny state. We shouldn’t want to be relying on politicians to keep us perfectly safe.”

He predicted the next major steps forward on the road to recovery would only be taken once people return to towns and cities and to workplaces. He stressed footfall had to get back to a level where businesses could function and thrive again.

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As for travelling on public transport without masks he said: “ My understanding is that local transport authorities and operators will basically be able to call the shots. All the evidence shows that transmission of Covid on these public transport facilities is very, very, low...less than one per cent.”

Customers would influence policy as if they didn’t feel safe they would not travel.

Frank reminded employers that they too will have a key role to play in restoring the business economy: ”As employers we need to be mindful of the fact we are in a different place at the moment. We’re still coming out of a very long period of lockdown and restrictions. We’re only a small business with 18 staff, but we have had for long before Covid flexible working, so people can come in early or late. I think the workforce of this country needs to be allowed the flexibility.”

This would prevent staff having to take crowded journeys at peak times and they could avoid rush hour.

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He said in his experience productivity thrived in such a work environment: “I’m equally sure there will be a blended approach to work in the future so when appropriate to do so people will be able to work from home as well.”

But it would also be important to ensure staff came into the office. This would be part of retaining talent and understanding company culture and caring for customers. He also said that, especially for younger people working in small apartments or at the end of a kitchen counter, it would be preferable to go back into the office rather than being cooped up for eight hours a day. He concluded: ”I would say on a personal level, I live in a fantastic house with spare rooms and I’ve got wifi. I don’t want to work from home permanently. “

For more local reaction see here and here .

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