This week Manchester has seen the gradual re-opening of some non-essential shops and the return to work for those who can’t work from home.
The move, which has to be met with safety first, has been described by Cllr Pat Karney, City Centre spokesperson, as ‘bringing a sense of relief to some businesses’, while being conscious of the ‘challenging times ahead for others’ and the importance of maintaining social distancing.
Cllr Pat Karney said: “The opening of some shops in the coming days will signal a huge sense of relief for businesses owners as the first signs of a more normal Manchester returning – and we are working with businesses to ensure they can open safely.
“However, this remains a very challenging time for the city’s businesses and we have worked to try and support as many as possible, but we understand that the difficult times are not yet over as social distancing remains vital.
“The Council has provided 100% business rate relief to nearly 4,000 organisations across the city, which means they will have no rates to pay over the next year – but if your business is struggling, please get in touch. Help is available.”
Meanwhile, Manchester Council chief executive, Joanne Roney has also backed a special social media message to the people of Manchester, to recognise how they have looked after one another during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Her backing of the city’s spirit of appreciation and kindness – features the city’s very own virtual Manchester hug, as a safe and socially-distant way of showing the warmth that Mancunians are renowned for.
The animated hug for social media is part of the city’s campaign called Welcome Back Manchester – which embeds key public health advice at its heart – as well as ways to look after mental wellbeing, to remind the city that safety must come first.
The bespoke hug – which has been designed so that people can send it to one another with a message – also aims to help tackle loneliness.
Speaking about the campaign, Joanne said: “We need to take things slowly, surely and safely as lockdown eases – while keeping that usual Manchester vigour as we focus on mental and physical health.
“We all want to help one another and to see the city back on its feet – and the best way to do that is by following social distancing guidelines, keeping on with handwashing, and wearing a face covering on public transport.”
Businesses and shops will be using the brightly-coloured materials from this week, and as further services come out of lockdown the campaign will be extended to include them. More details – and the Manchester Hug animation – can be found on www.welcomebackmanchester.com.
Manchester City Council has helped local businesses through more than 7,400 grants totalling more than £93.4m to ensure they have the support they need to continue operating through the financial impact of Covid-19.
A further 1,000 applications for financial support are currently being processed by the City Council to provide more than £5million discretionary funding for businesses who were ineligible for previous grant funding.