INDEPENDENT businesses around Monmouthshire have called for clarity and support from the UK and Welsh Government in the wake of Boris Johnson’s statement on coronavirus on Monday.

In Monday’s update, the prime minister suggested that people should “avoid non-essential contact” including “pubs, clubs and theatres”.

Senior staff at independent businesses around the county have raised concerns over what that could mean for jobs in the region, as not closing them altogether means most businesses will have to continue paying bills with little or no support.

General manager of the Wheatsheaf Inn in Magor, Nicholas Hennah, said it could mean a “long period of disdain” and possible job losses for the pub at the heart of Magor’s community, which has now been established for 20 years.

“I feel like we’ve now been put in an awful situation that we have very little control over,” said Mr Hennah. “As it stands, this will put a ridiculous amount of strain on people and businesses, and particularly the hospitality industry.

“We’re essentially a family-run business; if we don’t get customers, we will have to let part-time staff go.”

Like many services in Monmouthshire, the Wheatsheaf is considering delivering food to residents in Magor, such as elderly people self-isolating or those with symptoms.

“We are a relatively small community that helps each other, and we feel now more than ever that we need to continue that community spirit,” Mr Henneah added.

“But it works both ways, because we also know our lunch trade will be massively impacted by older people isolating, so we feel if we can bring it to them, they will support us.”

Free Press Series: Neville Street, AbergavennyNeville Street, Abergavenny

Francesca Fulgoni, whose family run Fulgoni’s opticians in Abergavenny, said they have already received lots of cancellations, and the town is significantly less busy.

“We need clarity on rate relief and what measures are going to be put in place to get us through before we can move forward,” she said.

“We have done everything we can in terms of providing surgical spirit and making this a safe environment, but it seems there isn’t much we can do now.

“The car parks are worryingly quiet – more so than usual. The uncertainty is the worst part.”

Fiona Wilton, who runs Monmouthshire Cottages in Catbrook along with her husband Malcolm, shared concerns.

Free Press Series: Fiona Wilton (right) and Malcolm Wilton (centre left)Fiona Wilton (right) and Malcolm Wilton (centre left)

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people who are worried about coming,” she said. “We are hoping that we can keep those who have already booked, but I’m not hopeful we will get bookings to come.

“I’m also very concerned for small businesses if this stockpiling continues. Not only are we not receiving support from the government, but people are stockpiling, making it hard to offer consistent service.

“If we can get more clarity, I hope that will mean people will stop stockpiling, and businesses can get the help they need. The fear of the unknown needs to be eradicated as soon as possible.”

Matthew Trim, who owns Trim’s Town Gate Butchers in Chepstow, called on those well enough to support local businesses.

Mr Trim has also started delivering in the wake of the outbreak.

“Now more than ever we need people who are capable to come and shop local,” he said.

Free Press Series: Matt Trim at Trim's Town Gate ButchersMatt Trim at Trim's Town Gate Butchers

“People are moaning about stock levels in Tesco, but we can provide that, and we need the support from you.”

Jo Colla, who owns Ladybird Craft Coffee in Caldicot, said she has already had to cut hours for her staff.

“I am worried about business, but I am trying to stay positive in our approach,” she said. “It’s a hard time and it has an impact on everything.

“We’ve had toddler groups close, staff are being asked to cut hours, and the market on the weekend was dead.

“I just hope we can all get through this, but we need the support of the authorities.”

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government announced a £200m support package for small businesses. Shops, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100 per cent rate relief; pubs with a rateable value of £51,000 to £100,000 will receive a £5,000 reduction on their bill.