Businesses in Huntingdonshire get set for lockdown - with takeaways and virtual quizzes on the menu - but experts warn of challenges ahead

Businesses across Huntingdonshire are braced for a second lockdown as experts label new restrictions as a “devastating blow”.

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce warned that many firms had been hit with an “unclear, stop-start approach” since the pandemic began.

All non-essential shops will have to close as England goes into a four-week national lockdown from Thursday (November 5).

Chains such as McDonalds and Costa will remain open for takeaways and Poundland, in will stay open in Huntingdon town centre.

Other retailers such as Next and TK Maxx will shut up shop on Wednesday evening.

Banks, post offices and supermarkets will stay open.

Chief executive of the chamber, John Bridge, said he feared firms were now in a “much weaker position” than at the start of the pandemic.

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He stated: “There’s no getting around the fact that the new restrictions being imposed from Thursday will be a devastating blow to all our business communities who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely.

“Business and market confidence have been hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach taken by governments across the UK over the past eight months, with little end in sight.

“Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions.”

Mr Bridge said that the temporary extension of the furlough scheme would bring short-term relief to many firms.

He added: “The government must ensure that the time afforded to them through another lockdown will be used to enable mass testing and radically fixing the Test and Trace systems - which hold the key to a lasting exit strategy for both public health and the economy.”

Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, Cllr Ryan Fuller, said: “I do not welcome the fact that England will be entering another national lockdown. As it stands, Huntingdonshire has the second-lowest infection rate numbers in the whole of the East of England. We have all been working together across the district to avoid the imposition of another lockdown that will be so very challenging for our residents and businesses.

“As we did before, the council will continue to operate as many services as possible in lockdown and as more guidance emerges this week, we will ensure residents and business are kept abreast of the latest support and information.

“We are ready and able to deliver direct support to residents, businesses and community groups as and when they may require it – something we have been doing continuously since March.

“I know that very few people will welcome the prospect of a further month-long lockdown, however, now that it is happening, we must take the opportunity to stem the transmission rate and ensure our local healthcare systems are not overwhelmed.”

Under the new government guidance, hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services.

However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.

Local pubs and cafes will be offering a takeout service – with one pub in Brampton giving punters the chance to bring a container for takeaway beer up until Wednesday.

The Hare on the Green posted: “Don’t worry we will remain open. Service as normal until Wednesday 10pm. From Thursday 5 we will keep bringing you the freshest takeaways.

“We will not be able to serve takeaway alcohol so please feel free before Thursday to bring a container for takeaway beer - we would hate any to be wasted!

“Discount Tuesdays, Virtual Quiz Wednesday and Themed Thursday will continue. We can even do virtual eating challenges too on FB live!”

The Lord Protector Pub & Sports Bar in Huntingdon are taking bookings for takeaway and delivery roast dinners for next Sunday.

You can message a member of the team on their Facebook page to get a slot.

Bohemia in St Neots will also be bringing back their popular lockdown takeaway.

They said: “It’s such a shame that we will be forced to shut our doors again later in the week but you know us, we adapt to still bring you lovely lot all the options you need.

“From Thursday 5 we’ll launch our new takeaway menu.

“We’ll be serving all of your Bohemia breakfast favourites from 9am to 12pm on Saturday and Sunday for the perfect weekend treat.

“From 12pm to 9pm Wednesday to Saturday we’re bringing you Bohemia Street Food & Tapas. The options are endless from ciabattas to noddle’s, from burgers to BBQ ribs.

“All that plus takeaway coffees, cakes and doughnuts.”

Charity shops will have to close, with the Huntingdonshire Society for the Blind urging shoppers to stock up.

They said: “In line with government guidelines we will be closing our charity shop on Wednesday at 3pm.

“If you’re thinking of buying your Christmas cards or need to stock up on jigsaw puzzles, DVDs, yarn etc for the next lockdown please make sure you pop along and see us before Wednesday.”

Cambridgeshire Libraries say that they are “seeking government guidance” on how to operate from Thursday onwards but have extended browsing hours until Wednesday.