Maria Miller is to meet small businesses after they raised concerns that further restrictions could 'kill independents'.

The Gazette has spoken to small business owners in recent days as concerns rise about the impact of a spike in Covid cases.

Mary Stevens, owner of Willows Coffee House, said that the business's sales are "significantly down" and is concerned over the terminology being used to describe the increase in cases.

She told The Gazette: "Everybody seems to be coming into town, getting their shopping and going home and it's definitely Covid-related.

"It's the terminology being used - when you use terms like tsunami, people get scared and they don't want to sit in coffee shops or go to bars and things like that.

"I do think more restrictions will kill independents, that have looked after everybody during the lockdowns, because we don't have that government support any more and we really need it."

Ms Stevens called on the government to bring back business grants, whilst landlord of the Rising Sun, Kevin Divall, asked for VAT and business rates holidays after revealing he expects cancellations and reduced trade to hit his business in the order of several thousands of pounds.

Sharing a Gazette article to Twitter, which featured Ms Stevens' concerns as well as Kendra Dhakal, manager at Chennai Express, who was also worried, Basingstoke MP Maria Miller said she would meet with small businesses today (Friday).

She said: "I am meeting small businesses today and taking their concerns directly to government."

Mrs Miller added that the government's support for business through the pandemic "has helped so many to survive to this point".

The hospitality industry has seen restrictions for much of the past two years. It was one of the first industries to close down in March 2020, and they were only fully lifted in July this year.

Reports from elsewhere in the country say that pubs and restaurants are facing a crisis amid Christmas booking cancellations, as workplaces cancel their Christmas parties and families think again about going out for meals.

This week, England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, told residents to think carefully over which social interactions they wish to prioritise.