BUSINESSES in Oxford are facing closure as shop owners and staff reveal takings have plummeted in the wake of coronavirus.

Footfall was noticeably down in the city centre today, with a downturn in foreign tourists having a major impact.

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Miqdal Poocbakal, manager of Oxford Gifts on High Street, told The Oxford Mail the shop would 'most probably' be forced to temporarily shut this week, explaining: "There's nobody here. It's dead. I've made one sale today of £10."

Oxford Mail:

Miqdal Poocbakal

Suhail Khan, director of House of Wonders, a Harry Potter-themed shop in Cornmarket Street, said there was a very real prospect the store could close for good if things did not improve.

He said: "It's horrible to imagine. I'm trying not to think about what could happen."

Team leader Filip Saito added the loss of tourist groups had been a massive blow.

He said: "We usually would have had about 200 people in by now but we've only had 20."

In a bid to address similar fears across the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak this afternoon outlined a series of 'unprecedented' measures.

These included a 12-month business rate holiday for retail and leisure businesses, as well as £330bn in Government-backed loans. Mr Sunak added businesses would have 'whatever they need'.

Nicole Rossi, who works at clothes shop Fresh in the Covered Market, said: "This is the worst it's been. It was bad when the Westgate opened but this is different. People aren't in the mood to buy. We're lucky if we have three customers a day."

The 36-year-old, who is originally from Italy and has family members in the country which has become an epicentre for the virus in Europe, criticised the current 'confusing' Government advice.

She said: "I think that is making people even more worried."

Josh Knight, who owns fairtrade shop Indigo on Cowley Road, said: "It does look increasingly likely that we will close soon though, as we are an ethical business and are aware of the potential harm we could be doing by staying open - endangering the health of those among us with compromised immunity and placing strain on our healthcare system. "

Oxford Mail:

Nicole Rossi

The Chancellor's announcement followed a call from Oxford City Council for more support from the UK Government.

In a statement earlier today, council leader Susan Brown, said: “The impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) is already being felt by businesses and their employees, with staff being laid off and those on zero-hour contracts being told not to come in.

"Without urgent intervention from central government, in a matter of weeks large numbers of people across the country will be facing problems with being able to afford to pay their mortgage or rent."

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She added: “The Government’s announcements to support businesses in last week’s Budget, particularly the 100 per cent rate discount for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, were helpful – but further measures are now needed. The French government has, for example, pledged €300bn to support its economy, and said that no business will go bankrupt as a result of coronavirus."

Oxford Mail:

Filip Saito

The councillor said the authority would continue to do 'all it can' to help businesses in Oxford.

She said: "We have a team of colleagues who are quickly facilitating Government grants and rate relief, and we are surveying businesses in the city to get a clearer understanding of their immediate needs and identify ways we can help. We stand ready to get behind the Government and help in any way we can."

But Ms Brown added: "There is only so much a council can do – we simply do not have the financial resources of national government. " She said the Government needed to 'adopt a similar scale of ambition as France to protect our citizens', adding: "The objective must be to protect businesses and jobs in Oxford and across the country."