VAST swathes of West Oxfordshire have fallen silent this week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the country into a three-week lockdown.

Cotswold Wildlife Park, Blenheim Palace and other visitor attractions have shut to visitors in a way never before seen.

Workers from teachers to hairdressers have been forced to go into isolation at home and business owners are now hoping a offer of support from West Oxfordshire District Council might keep their companies alive.

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In an extraordinary announcement on Monday night, the Prime Minster told people that, in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, they should only leave their homes for one of four reasons: if it is 'absolutely necessary' for work; for exercise once a day; shopping for essential items, or fulfilling medical or care needs.

Shops selling non-essential goods have been ordered to close.

Gatherings of more than two people who do not live together have been prohibited, and police have the power to enforce these rules through fines.

Weddings and baptisms have also been cancelled.

Before the news of the lockdown, West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) announced on Friday its plans to support local businesses.

Support will be available through a series of measures, including a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and grants of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

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Grant funding of up to £25,000 will also be available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Deputy leader of the council, and cabinet member for resources, Toby Morris said: “We understand this is a stressful time for business owners and we’re committed to working with them and partner agencies to ensure those affected get the support they need.

“We are working to identify businesses that will qualify for the additional business rate relief and will be contacting eligible businesses before the end of the month to notify you of the relief and revised business rate bills.

“I want to reassure everyone that, with our partners, we are doing all we can to ensure the district is as prepared and resilient as possible.”


Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a range of grant schemes will be available for businesses and it is anticipated that WODC will act as the administrative body for these.

More information on applying for these schemes is expected later this month.

On Friday, WODC also revealed it was cancelling all its meetings in April, apart from its cabinet and council meetings scheduled for 22 and 29 April.

WODC apologised for any inconvenience caused by these changes and thanked the public for its patience.

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Meanwhile, a host of events have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Witney Carnival, which was due to take place on July 11, was cancelled by its committee on Friday.

The 2021 carnival will start being planned in October.

On Monday, organisers pulled the plug on the Riverside festival.


The two-day event in Charlbury was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary in July and this year’s line-up had not yet been announced.

Another popular West Oxfordshire event that was cancelled is the Chipping Norton Lit Fest, which was due to take place next month.

All those who purchased a ticket can get a full refund for the four-day event.

One event that is still set to take place is the Cornbury Festival.

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Currently, the Great Tew Park gig will see Ronan Keating join the likes of Van Morrison, Dido and Jack Savoretti.

Organisers have not yet announced a cancellation or postponement for the three-day festival in July.

Several landmarks and attractions across the region have also closed, as Blenheim Palace has shut its formal gardens, pleasure gardens and palace itself.

The park remains open between 10am and 4pm and is free, however numbers are limited for social distancing purposes.

The shop, cafe and toilets are also closed.


Another attraction that has closed its doors is the Cotswold Wildlife Park, which closed yesterday.

The Burford-based park will be in touch with anyone who has purchased a Keeper Experience, Animal Encounter or e-ticket.

From Monday, schools across the UK were closed, unless parents are key workers and have no other access to childcare.

The vast majority of schools across the region are partially open, meaning they are open for children whose parents are key workers.


As of yesterday, key workers that have not been able to make arrangements for MILL Academy Trust students (The Henry Box school, Queen Emma’s Primary and Finstock Church of England Primary) can send their children to Queen Emma’s.

West Witney Primary school is closed until further notice, whilst Carterton Community College was closed yesterday and said it would be contacting parents who have booked places soon.

Earlier this week also saw a spike of closures from the hair and beauty industry.

Salons and barbershops in Witney are temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Several studios announced closures earlier this week, in advance of the lockdown announcement on Monday.

Claire Boswell, proprietor at Effects Hair Studio, said: “My foremost concern was to keep clients and staff safe at this time.

“It was a very hard decision to make and in 24 years of owning the salon, the first of its kind I’ve had to make.”

Meanwhile, Lee David from Lee David The Barber Shop in Wesley Walk added: “We feel that for the safety of the customers and ourselves we decided to close the doors for now.

“We think the government is doing a great job and decided it was our duty to help the NHS out.”

Mr David has run his shop for 11 years and said it is the first time he has had to close its doors.

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“We work in very close proximity to our clients, and we cannot carry out services following Public Health England guidance, it’s impossible,” said Hannah and Luke Meader from Meaders Hair Studio in Corn Street.

“It’s also impossible to cut hair wearing gloves and asking our clients to wear masks as this would get in the way in the ear area.

“This virus has no limits and we must all act now.

“We must stand in solidarity to support one another and keep Witney thriving.”

The National Hair and Beauty Federation had called on the Government to add salons and barbershops to the list of businesses that must close, after the Prime Minister announced on Friday that pubs and restaurants would shut.