Welsh cafe owner 'unsure business will survive' new travel rules

14 October 2020, 19:01

Just Jo's cafe is on the Welsh border
Just Jo's cafe is on the Welsh border. Picture: Joanne Williams

By Maddie Goodfellow

A Welsh cafe owner has told LBC the decision to ban people from parts of the UK that have high rates of coronavirus from travelling to Wales could cause her business to "shut down completely".

Joanne Williams owns Just Jo’s café in Deeside, on the border of England and Wales, and said a large majority of her customers come from England.

"I'm right on the border, so I get a lot of passing customers from England, particularly Manchester and Liverpool," she explained.

"Before the pandemic, as much as 70 per cent of my customers would be people crossing the border from England."

Read more: What are the restrictions and what counts as a hotspot?

On Wednesday, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that people from parts of the UK that have high rates of coronavirus will be prevented from travelling to Wales.

First minister Mark Drakeford says it'll apply to those living in Tier 2 and 3 areas in England, and high risk places in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He said the move was needed to "to prevent the spread of infection within Wales and to other areas of the UK."

Joanne explained the impact this will have on her business.

"Unless people just ignore the rules or keep travelling here for work, it's going to have a huge impact," she explained.

"There is a lot of building work around where my cafe is, so if I lose that trade it will make a huge dent, and over weeks or months this dent could cause me to shut down.

"I'm already operating on a week to week basis. I can’t make long term plans because everything is so uncertain at the moment. At this point I just get through each week and think 'we’ve survived'."

Under the new rules, people will still be able to travel from hot spots in the UK into Wales for work, however tourists and non-essential travellers will not be allowed to enter.

She continued: "I've already lost so much business prior to this, and this is just another blow. Without the trade from nearby construction work I would have shut down a long time ago.

"I've had customers saying to me 'I won’t be seeing you now as I can’t come across the border' following the rule changes.

"Even if I don't lose business from people working on nearby construction work, I will lose huge amounts from the lack of tourists.

"People pass through here on their way to north Wales, people visting family and holidaymakers as they cross the border. Without that things will be difficult."

Joanne also said that further measures to help small businesses "need to be put in place fast" if they are to survive these new rules.

"There needs to be more than just the furlough scheme. I've managed to keep all my staff on reduced hours, but this could mean I have think about other measures.

"There's no security in any of our jobs, we are just going from week to week and hoping we have another week to look forward to at the end."

On Wednesday, Mark Drakeford told LBC the new ruling will apply to those living in Tier 2 and 3 areas in England, and high risk places in Scotland and Northern Ireland; currently, he said, this means the "whole" of Northern Ireland.

"The thinking is very simple: we have parts of Wales where coronavirus is still in very low circulation, we have acted to prevent Welsh people from travelling to those areas," Mr Drakeford said, "I live in Cardiff, I'm not allowed to travel to Tenby in southwest Wales because the virus there is still at a very low pitch.

"All we have asked is for people in other parts of the United Kingdom to be in the same position. You can't travel from a high circulation area to a low circulation area because the risk is you will take the virus with you."

The First Minister said he has "tried hard" not to implement the first Covid border in the UK and has in fact tried to persuade the Prime Minister "simply to have in England the same rule we have here in Wales that nobody from a high circulation area no matter where that is should be able to travel to a low circulation area wherever that might be."

He said if the Prime Minister had cooperated and agreed, "we wouldn't have had a border issue at all.""I feel I tried really hard to avoid it becoming a Wales versus other parts of the United Kingdom issue but I've had no help from the Prime Minister," he said, explaining that in the end, he had to take a decision to protect Welsh public health.

Mr Drakeford also explained that from Friday police can "persuade and educate people" not to cross in to Wales and "if that doesn't work they can impose fixed penalty notices upon people."

He said that turning people away would be the "last resort."