A LONG-established opticians in Prudhoe is facing an uncertain future due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Elizabeth Evans Opticians, on Front Street, has built a reputation in the town after trading there for 65 years.

The service was deemed essential during the coronavirus crisis and has stayed open to provide emergency eye care to take some of the pressure away from hospitals.

However, the practice can longer sell spectacles or carry out NHS eye tests, for which it is paid by NHS England.

This means the business has been robbed of its income.

Optometrist Elizabeth Evans, who has run the practice for the last 17 years, explained that the existing support was insufficient due to the business’s cash flow dropping significantly.

She feared that a business loan would be difficult to repay once the pandemic is over.

She said: “My business should get the £10,000 grant, but that will just tickle the surface. We could do with it every month.

“What we’re going to have to do is take out a loan – but that’s a loan, it’s still going to have to be paid back.

“When we reopen properly, that’s going to be hanging over our head.

“I’m 54 and I’ve been at the practice for 17 years. I don’t want to be taking out loans now, I’ve done all that.

“It’s like looking into the abyss. It’s been the worst weeks of my life.

“It will cripple me once I have to start paying it back.”

The business does not benefit from the government’s freeze on business rate payments, as it does not pay them in the first place.

Several staff have been placed on furlough, but wages only make up part of the practice’s overheads.

To solve the problem, Elizabeth is calling on people to support local businesses once lockdown is lifted, rather than shopping online or out of town.

She continued: “People need to think about who they support and where their cash is going to go.

“Our local businesses are really going to need that money.

“Businesses are the backbone of society. That’s what pays for nurses and teachers.

“The people who aren’t losing their income need to go out and spend their money in those local businesses.

“What bliss to get sent home and not lose your income.

“People have to come out afterwards, and they have to spend their money at their local businesses.”