At the time of writing 13 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed across Cornwall and Devon in the past week - individuals diagnosed with the disease as a result of a lab-confirmed test. This is important to note as people are understandably cautious about the spread of coronavirus since lockdown restrictions were eased a fortnight ago. We are not out of the woods but it is clear that, as we abide by social distancing guidance and hand washing etc, it is possible to safely and cautiously increase our daily activity.
The time will come when holiday lets and other holiday accommodation will be permitted to reopen and no one is taking the safety of local residents more seriously than the tourism sector itself. Everyone who operates a tourism business recognises how important it is to the future of Cornish tourism to proceed with caution. For several weeks now I have been working with tourism chiefs including representatives from self-catering lets through to hotel proprietors to understand what measures are needed to ensure holiday makers and local residents are safe when people are permitted to travel to stay overnight. Also on this group are representatives from town centres, the police and elected representatives.
As Cornwall and Scilly prepares to become a visitor destination once again we are working together to ensure people stay safe, our NHS and care community comes first and we enjoy a slow, safe and managed return of visitors coming to enjoy West Cornwall and Scilly. A return to tourism is inevitable and we want to be prepared. This includes supporting efforts to develop an accreditation for accommodation providers who meet a clear set of standards relating to cleanliness and safety. We are also feeding in to Government ideas to manage the return to tourism in a phased way starting with low risk settings such as self-catering units. The reality is that tourism as we know it will not fully recover this year and neither should it as we maintain social distancing. With MPs from other coastal communities and tourism destinations I have discussed at length with Government Ministers the need to provide financial support to aspects of the tourism sector right through to next year. This includes pubs and restaurants who are simply not viable once they reduce the number of customers they can cater for safely.
On Friday MPs representing Cornwall and Devon met with the Communities and Local Government Secretary of State Robert Jenrick to discuss further financial support to help our two counties. I pressed for additional money to distribute to businesses that have not yet qualified for the Business Grant and sought reassurance that the pot of up to £50m for St Ives and Penzance to improve the opportunities for local people was secure despite the cost of tackling the impact of coronavirus. Robert Jenrick confirmed that this fund was secure and that his department along with the Treasury is reviewing the guidance to ensure the two towns could maximise the money in light of a tougher than expected economic environment due to the lockdown!