There is no doubt that the Island’s businesses — especially small businesses — have suffered badly throughout the coronavirus pandemic, either through forced closures, reduced income due to restrictions, or changing buying habits from customers.

The impact is significant and while we have all accepted that some restrictions have been necessary, there is growing concern among many Conservative MPs, including myself, at the lack of research being published into the human, societal and economic costs of lockdown.

Evidence is crucial to sound decision making.

Therefore, I am grateful to the 200 local businesses who responded to a recent survey carried out by the IW Federation of Small Businesses.

Read more: Shock statistics of Federation of Small Businesses survey. 

This was a good response and it gives us evidence of how Covid-19 — and steps to mitigate it — are impacting on Island businesses.

Three things are immediately apparent.

Firstly, there can be no doubt about just how hard businesses are being hit by the pandemic, despite the assistance put in place by government and other bodies.

We know that there can be clear advantages in lockdowns in emergency circumstances, but we also know that there are short, medium and long-term costs.

We know that lack of exercise, poverty and loneliness, to name but three, have significant health consequences, as do extended operation waiting times.

Last week I supported a letter from backbench Conservative MPs calling on the government to ensure that any future restrictions should only be put in place based on clear scientific evidence.

Second, the IW business survey demonstrates that businesses on the Island are adapting to survive.

Companies are introducing online sales and home deliveries. This is good for them, good for the customer and good in terms of building a resilient and diverse Island economy.

I saw a good example of this is in practice when I visited the Isle of Wight Meat Company near Bowcombe.

We need to embrace online and broadband. Where possible, I want Island business selling to the world, not only the Island.

Third, the study reveals there is good awareness of the Buy Local scheme. I am a passionate supporter of this initiative.

The more we buy food and products made on the Island by Island business, the more we keep money on the Island, benefitting Islanders.

So, when the Island’s small shops open again next week, please let’s, where possible, buy our Christmas presents from Island-owned businesses.