Coronavirus lockdown rules appeal by Cambridgeshire business leader

John Bridge from Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture; ARCHANT

John Bridge from Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A business leader has called for the authorities to only take actions against firms which “wilfully” disobey rules on trading as businesses try to get to grips with new regulations over the coronavirus lockdown.

But John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said there would be widespread concern in the business world about the imposition of a quarantine system for international arrivals.

Mr Bridge, whose organisation represents firms in the Huntingdonshire area, broadly backed new Government initiatives to ease the lockdown which has crippled firms for two months.

He said proposals to reopen certain businesses by June 1 would mean an entirely new way of working for many.

Mr Bridge said: “Clarity and guidance on plans for a phased reopening of the retail sector will be welcomed.

“Businesses will be taking a safe, proportionate and risk-based approach to returning to work, in close consultation with their staff. For many this will be an entirely new way of operating as they apply guidance to the practical realities of their business.”

He urged the authorities to take a practical approach with firms doing their best to comply with the new regulations.

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Mr Bridge said: “HSE and local authorities should support businesses as they seek to comply with the new rules - and reserve new enforcement powers for the tiny minority of businesses who are wilfully disobeying or ignoring their obligations.”

But he was worried about quarantine measures aimed at arrivals in the UK which were designed to stop a second wave of coronavirus infections, saying: “Business communities in the UK and around the world will be deeply concerned by the decision to impose a blanket quarantine for international arrivals.

“This approach will damage international business and investor confidence at a time when it is vital to demonstrate that the UK can open for business safely. Co-ordinated checks at departure and arrival airports, and strong safety measures would alleviate the need for a wholesale quarantine.”

Mr Bridge said: “Businesses will look to the Government to set out a clear plan for the safe re-establishment of air connections to key markets and trade partners around the world. Any review process should consult widely with business communities.”

He said the opening of a discretionary fund for small businesses to the self-employed was a “great result” after lobbying by the chamber network.

Mr Bridge said outdoor markets and car showrooms could open on June 1 and non-essential retail, such as shops selling clothes, shoes, books, furniture and indoor markets from June 15, subject to the completion of risk assessments and being Covid-19 secure.