HOSPITALITY businesses and nightlife venues in Warrington say potential plans to reintroduce Covid restrictions this winter could be ‘catastrophic’ for the industry.

This comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid outlined his ‘plan B’ for the country should a surge in coronavirus cases threaten to overwhelm the NHS.

The cabinet minister revealed the contingency measures should ‘plan A’ fail to sufficiently keep the virus under check across the country.

This initial plan includes the booster vaccine programme which has now began in Warrington, a prioritisation of meeting outdoors over indoors or in places with suitable ventilation, use of face coverings in crowded settings and use of Covid passes to check the vaccination or test status of customers.

But should cases still begin to escalate, plan B measures such as mandatory ‘vaccine passports’ to enter nightclubs, indoor venues with 500 or more attendees and outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people; a legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings and a return to work from home advisories would come into effect.

Jenny Keepe, manager of PJs nightclub in the town centre, wonders what effect vaccine passports would have if they were to be brought in.

She said: “I have had my vaccine, but there are a lot of people that have not, and I have got staff that are not for it, but you cannot force people at the same time.

Warrington Guardian: PJs nightclub in Warrington town centrePJs nightclub in Warrington town centre

“If you are forcing customers, what are the staff going to do? Are the staff going to have to lose their jobs because they don’t want the vaccine?

“It is letting people make their own decisions – if they want to put themselves at risk or take the precaution, then that is up to them.”

Jenny is aware of how a spike of cases can affect things after PJs experienced an outbreak in June, after which she installed a £10,000 extraction system to ensure a continual flow of clean.

She hopes this keeps PJs operating, but is wary of changes to the current rules.

“I think everyone is always going to feel a little bit worried because it is our jobs,” she added.

“If it all changes, gets shut down or makes the business a lot quieter, can the industry continue to operate?”

The owner of Salt, a bar in Lymm that only reopened after the third lockdown, hopes the industry can keep moving forward as one and learn to live with the virus.

Warrington Guardian: Tyler Cook and Grace at Salt in LymmTyler Cook and Grace at Salt in Lymm

“It frustrates me massively because I feel like we are constantly making movements forward and then going back on ourselves. I think we need to live with it now,” said Tyler Cook, who took over the bar in 2020.

“This is here to stay, and we need to get on with it. If we keep just going back and forwards with these restrictions, places like my business and other small businesses are just going to suffer from it.”

The former Lymm High School pupil added: “People have only just started to come to terms with the fact that they can go out again, and it has been slow to start after being able to open as it has put so many people off.

“We are actually getting to a point where it is feeling normal again, and if we go back into restrictions, it will be a backwards step.

“Christmas is one of the busiest periods for the industry, and to suffocate that would destroy places I think. It will just be a nightmare for people – we need to just crack on.”

James Dodd, the landlord of The Crown in Lymm, can feel the potential burden ahead of the winter.

“The biggest fear with the hospitality industry is another lockdown,” he said.

Warrington Guardian: The Crown in Lymm (Image: Google Maps)The Crown in Lymm (Image: Google Maps)

“The Government’s plan B is worrying as if cases do begin to spike, they might not be introduced quick enough to stop the spread.

“For the industry to lose a second Christmas period would be catastrophic for many, and the country cannot afford to keep supporting us.

“Erring on the side of caution to avoid catastrophe seems the sensible option.

“Our primary goal is to serve and please our customers, but this potential burden weighs heavy on our shoulders as winter approaches.”

In announcing the winter plan, Mr Javid said: “The plan shows how we will give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions.”

But he added: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change, so we have prepared a plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed, and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

The key test for the introduction of measures is if hospitals and NHS staff can cope with the number of people being admitted after contracting coronavirus.

Warrington Guardian: Warrington HospitalWarrington Hospital

While Warrington Hospital’s coronavirus admissions have remained relatively stable over recent months, bosses warn the accident and emergency department is currently facing ‘extreme pressure’.

They are asking patients to consider whether A&E is the most appropriate place for them, or whether suitable care can be accessed via an alternative route.

Dr Alex Crowe, executive medical director at the Lovely Lane site said: “We are seeing a rise in patients coming into the hospital, which means much longer waiting times with increased pressure on staff, who are working hard to ensure that they see and treat the sickest patients first.

“Please remember that accident and emergency is for life-threatening emergencies or accidents only.

“Lots of patients that are coming to the department could be better treated or advised elsewhere.”

If you need urgent medical advice and are not sure where to go, use visit 111.nhs.uk to check your symptoms or call 111 if you do not have access to the internet.

Alternative options include pharmacists, who are qualified to give advice and dispense medicines for a range of illnesses, while GP surgeries remain open.