Why new lockdown is wrong by top Harrogate hotelier

A highly respected Harrogate hotelier has condemned the Government's new lockdown as a well-intentioned but misguided policy which will put businesses and jobs at risk.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 10:01 am

Although Simon Cotton, managing director of the HRH Group which owns the Yorkshire Hotel, the White Hart Hotel and the Fat Badger pub, said he would be respecting and obeying the new rules which come into force from this Thursday, but, from his experience in the hospitality sector in Harrogate, he did not believe the policy was the answer to tackling the rise in Covid.

Speaking personally, Mr Cotton said the systems and procedures already in place in his industry had proven to be safe.

Simon Cotton, managing director of the HRH Group in Harrogate says he will respect the new lockdown but thinks it is the wrong approach.

In the businesses he ran which had a footfall of approximately 50,000 people, there had been a total of seven confirmed Covid cases reported (four staff and three guests), all of whom contracted the virus outside of their venues.

He said towns with large student populations have been at the centre of the fastest growth and yet the nation was about to start a lockdown this week and let this group continue as normal.

A new lockdown which kept universities open seemed to defeat the purpose, Mr Cotton added.

Mr Cotton added the only way a lockdown could work was if everyone abided by it as before, otherwise he feared England would be in exactly the same position four weeks from now but with more jobs lost and more businesses at risk.

He said, he would have preferred if the Government's tier system had been given enough time to show real results.

Mr Cotton said: "I would prefer to see a 4th and even 5th Tier to manage this as we have to learn to live with it in our society. It won’t have gone away in a month, even in six months and we can’t afford to keep shutting the doors of businesses and risk gambling with peoples jobs and mental health."

Comments in full: What Simon Cotton said

"It is completely pointless in my opinion, locking down businesses whilst at the same time keeping schools open.

Shops opened 20 weeks ago and have been trading successfully now for five months.

The hospitality sector followed on the 4th July which is 17 weeks and due to the strict rules in place on how we manage our businesses, statistics show that transmission rates through track and trace are as low as between 1 and 2 percent.

Indeed, in our own businesses, we operate six sites across North Yorkshire, we have had a total of seven confirmed cases reported (four staff and three guests), all of which contracted the virus outside of our venues.

We’ve had a footfall of approximately 50,000 people either sleepers, diners or drinkers through our doors in that time which therefore equates to 14 in 100,000 which suggests we may actually be the safest place in all of Europe.

Importantly though, in every one of these confirmed cases, both staff and guests, we ensured everyone who came into contact with them was tested, again staff and other guests (ie people seated on the next tables around).

I’m happy to say not one single person has additionally tested positive which shows that our systems and procedures are safe.

I know that many other hospitality businesses across Harrogate have equally good results and that is why we were still in Tier 1 when all those around us were in Tiers 2 and 3 so it is hugely frustrating that all the good work delivered locally is being pushed to one side because of higher transmission rates elsewhere.

With Harrogate being such a busy tourist destination all summer too, maybe the government should have looked to our great town as to how we’ve been managing this.

Yet, schools and Universities have been back 7 weeks and the virus has spiralled out of control.

Cities and towns with large student populations have been at the centre of the fastest growth and yet we’re about to start a lockdown this week and let this group continue as normal.

In my opinion, it will be the biggest waste of for weeks and put businesses and jobs at risk.

The only way a lockdown can work is if everyone abides by it as before otherwise I fear we’ll be in exactly the same position 4 weeks from now but with more jobs lost and more businesses at risk of throwing the towel in.

Yes, the numbers may drop slightly but they will equally shoot back up as everyone comes out to celebrate Christmas.

Lockdown is not the answer, we haven’t given the tier system enough time to show real results.

I would prefer to see a 4th and even 5th Tier to manage this as we have to learn to live with it in our society.

It won’t have gone away in a month, even in six months and we can’t afford to keep shutting the doors of businesses and risk gambling with peoples jobs and mental health.

And if we have no choice, it has to be an all or nothing approach. I completely respect that our children and young adults need their education, I know first hand as my 17-year-old-son is doing his A levels next year; but we equally need successful businesses and a thriving economy to provide jobs for this next generation so the two have to go hand in hand.

I’m not a fan of a second lockdown but will, of course, respect and obey the rules of it.

If it is to work however, the schools and universities must be included so it can have the rapid results required, otherwise I fear it will be a bleak looking Christmas for many come December."