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Ceredigion businesses yet to fully recover from COVID-19 impact say university boffins

BUSINESSES in Ceredigion have yet to fully recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to academics at Aberystwyth University.

In spring 2021 researchers at Aberystwyth Business School launched two online surveys into the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on households and businesses in Ceredigion.

The responses feature in two detailed reports presented at a conference at Aberystwyth University on Tuesday 19 September.

The first report, ‘The Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Ceredigion Businesses and the Self-employed’, draws on the experience of 77 businesses and self-employed individuals and identifies some of the main challenges they faced.

According to the study, 92% of businesses reported difficulties, including falls in customer numbers and revenue, and disruptions to supply chains.

Despite the availability of various government backed business support schemes at the time, the authors conclude that many businesses have still not returned to normal and have called for policy responses to address what they describe as “ongoing long-business COVID effects”.

The second report, “The Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Ceredigion County Households” reflects the experiences of 246 households as they negotiated the lockdowns and restrictions introduced by UK and Welsh governments.

80% of respondents reported changes to spending habits, mostly on food, utility bills and internet provision, with 40% juggling work with childcare and home-schooling.

55% reported feeling isolated with 1 in 3 people reporting mental health difficulties.

The report highlights wide-ranging mental health issues connected to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, isolation and additional stress due to work, home-schooling and caring responsibilities.

The authors argue the stress and anxiety reported by residents were also exacerbated by slow broadband speeds, poor digital accessibility and connectivity issues which were reported by nearly half of the respondents.

The reports’ authors are Dr Aloysius Igboekwu, Senior Lecturer in Finance and Director of Postgraduate Studies, Dr Maria Plotnikova, Lecturer in Economics and Dr Sarah Lindop, Senior Lecturer in Finance at Aberystwyth Business School.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Aloysius Igboekwu said: “Although the short-term effects, such as supply chain disruptions and a fall in customer numbers were substantial, evidence from our survey responses suggests addressing the ongoing long-business COVID effects should be a priority for policymakers. Providing better access to digital infrastructure across the county would have benefited both households and businesses during the pandemic.”

He added: “In terms of the impact of the pandemic on Ceredigion households, policymakers should reflect on the effects that the restrictions and lockdowns had on the well-being, including the physical and mental health, of the population.”

The reports will be available on Aberystwyth Business School’s Research webpage and Aberystwyth University Research portal on Tuesday 19 September 2023.