I know that last week’s Covid news from South Africa and the WHO response will have concerned many. We do not yet know enough about the new covid variant, Omicron, but it’s right that the Government acted swiftly to look to minimise the impact of this new strain. Omicron was first identified in southern Africa last Tuesday, made a variant of concern on Wednesday and by Thursday the Government had added southern African countries back onto the red list – introducing rules for stricter testing and quarantine upon arrival into the UK.
The Government is also expanding the booster campaign to all adults aged over-18 and will now be offering second jabs to those aged 12 to 15. This will help strengthen immunity and protect those around us who are more vulnerable. Measures such a mask wearing will become compulsory again in certain settings in England.
On Saturday it was great to visit Christmas Fairs in Southwater and Nuthurst and with the Christmas shopping rush nearly upon us it is perhaps especially important that we are more mindful of reducing transmission.
I recently visited one of HDCs latest ventures - the Pop-Up Shop – designed to give microbusinesses set up during the pandemic the experience of trading on the high street. It was great to see some fantastic local businesses being given that opportunity and it’s well worth searching them out in West Street.
I am also glad that the Council has been able to award £80,000 of grant funding to improve the appearance of local premises, making Horsham more appealing to customers in the run-up to Christmas and encouraging footfall from a wide area. I am always impressed by how the Horsham shopping experience attracts customers from right across the county and beyond which is great for maintaining our local independents and national outlets.
This weekend I will be supporting Small Business Saturday, which reminds us to support small business both in retail and in all other sectors of the economy. We are incredibly lucky that in our District many businesses are independents with real local differentiation which deserve our support. Some sectors like travel have had a particularly difficult time while others have bravely been launched and have been building support even through the pandemic. It is more important than ever that we help our local economy. For many that means shopping in person and supporting our many local pubs and coffee shops. However Horsham District Council have also established a route for those who want to buy local whilst not coming into their town or village by launching Visit Horsham (visithorsham.co.uk/virtual) which allows customers to order from local businesses online and have their orders delivered directly to their home.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Quin visiting the Pop-Up-Shop in Horsham.