Norwich Livestock Market reopens under strict new social distancing regime
PUBLISHED: 19:54 16 May 2020 | UPDATED: 19:59 16 May 2020
The reopening of Norwich Livestock Market has been hailed a success after its temporary coronavirus closure – although some disappointed farmers were turned away under the market’s strict new social distancing regime.
Farmers and cattle dealers returned to the site at Hall Road today for the first time since March 21, when the last sale was held before the wide-ranging lockdown restrictions were announced by the prime minister, including a ban on public gatherings.
Livestock auctions, due to their important role in supplying meat into the public food chain, were allowed to continue if they implemented a series of protective measures – however the Norwich market’s board initially took its own decision to close temporarily for the safety of its staff and the farmers who gather there.
But that decision was later reversed by directors, who decided with infection rates falling and guidelines being revised the market could resume trading “to keep the food chain moving” and enable farmers to continue to buy and sell cattle and sheep.
After the gates were reopened this morning, farmers had to comply with new measures including a “drop and go” policy requiring sellers to stay in their vehicles when bringing animals for sale, only allowing registered buyers to attend, and enforcing strict two-metre social distancing rules across the site, in line with advice from the government and the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association Limited (LAA).
A maximum of 35 people were allowed in the store cattle ring at any one time, while the rules excluded public visitors and onlookers from the site, along with anyone who was over 70, ill, or had any underlying health issues.
Cattle and calf auctioneer Philip Dale said: “Norwich market is known for the quality of the stock presented here, the fact we are a TB4 area (low risk for bovine tuberculosis) and its friendliness. It also usually attracts retired farmers who turn up each sale day for the comradeship and a chance to have a natter.
“Today the rules and regulations were different and so the market was quieter from the point of view of visitors. Whilst we usually have about 55 buyers for the cattle, today we were limited to 35 and there was disappointment.
“We had to run a first-come first-served system and so some buyers who did not register early were not permitted entry.”
But not everyone who turned up at the market today had registered.
Shareholder Penelope Lucas said: “There were several people who had driven long distances to buy today but they had not pre-registered. Spaces around the ring are measured at two metres apart and sadly we could not accommodate everyone who wanted to come in. Those who were turned away were very understanding and good-natured about the situation.”
Market chairman Stephen Lutkin said: “The market today was carefully planned. All the staff had met prior to discuss how best we could serve our customers and I must say the staff really rose to the challenge.
“The ‘drop and go’ system for vendors worked very well indeed. There are strict rules in place regarding social distancing, particularly in the office area and around the main selling ring.
“This is how the market will work whilst the public health emergency continues. It was very encouraging and a relief to see everyone sticking to the rules”.
Tim Webster, sheep auctioneer, added: “It’s important to keep the food chain operational. I was pleased to see that the sheep vendors have stayed loyal to Norwich, and today we have seen above-average numbers in all sections with prices the same as the national average.”
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