I hope you are all safe and well. Unfortunately Liverpool City Region has seen an increase in the rate of Covid-19 infections which has now led us to be placed on to the very high category of the new traffic-light system announced by Government yesterday. Firstly, we must all accept that the health of our residents has to come first and with infection rates and hospital admissions high and rising, something had to be done. The position is clear. We must contain the virus, protect our NHS and save lives. But once again the country is asking our hospitality and leisure sector to economically bear the brunt of protecting public health It is terrible news for all of those businesses being forced to close and everyone who works for them, with no certainty when or if they will be able to open again. And I know from talking to business leaders in the sector that many of those affected just don’t have the capacity to survive months of lockdown without substantial support to meet their outgoings. And then there are all the other businesses who can stay open whose income is decimated as they just don’t have customers – like our independent hotels and guest houses, our business district cafes and restaurants, our tourist attractions and amenities. We have been making the case consistently through this pandemic that our visitor and hospitality sector, which is so critical to our economy, is suffering disproportionately from lockdown measures and they need additional support. To put it bluntly, the first lockdown has had a terrible impact with an estimated £2.3bn hit in lost income on our Visitor Economy alone. The impact has obviously caused businesses to close and jobs to be lost. Even when businesses were allowed to open, their income was massively reduced due to reduced visitors, pushing many more businesses in the sector to the brink. With these new restrictions what businesses want is fourfold: They want certainty – they want to know what is happening and when, so they can do all they can to plan and manage for it. They want a level playing field – they want to be treated fairly and equally with other areas in similar situations They want investment for the recovery of the sector at the appropriate time – businesses will need help to get back into profit following this period of reduced revenue and increased borrowing. They want funding support where they are losing income due to lockdown restrictions so they can survive until we emerge from lockdown In simple terms we need two things: Support for business and their staff forced to close due to local lockdown measures. Support for those trying to stay open in the face of massively reduced customers and income. And in both cases this support must be proportionate to their needs. I strongly support the case made by our local leaders for a more generous furlough type scheme for those businesses forced to close like we saw back in April. I would argue that, in this sector that has been hit so hard, if 80% was the right level then, it should be an absolute minimum now as people are even less able to withstand a reduction after months of hardship. I also strongly support the case for substantial help for those businesses in this sector badly affected through loss of trade who don’t have to close and the proposals to do this being made by our Local Authority and Combined Authority colleagues. And over the coming days, weeks and months this is the case that the LEP, alongside our Visitor Economy Board, will continue to make, with our local leaders, working in partnership, to ensure that our businesses and residents get all the help and support they possibly can to survive the difficult months ahead and help drive our recovery. Through our Growth Platform website and business briefings we will be keeping business up to speed with all the covid related support and funding available here. We also have a network of local partners working tirelessly with local businesses, who alongside us are here to help. For more information please visit our website here or call our dedicated helpline #HeretoHelp on 0151 705 1985 and we will connect you to the best help available. We are a resilient place with great, resilient people doing the best they can in the face of a unprecedented challenge. And, as is our way here, we will face that challenge together, in partnership and we will pull through.