‘It would be disastrous’ - Town’s renewed bid to avoid tier two at all costs
- Credit: Archant
“We always knew there’d be peaks and troughs, but we can and will get this virus under control.”
This is the message from Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s leader, Carl Smith, as he encourages people to “protect the town” following a spike in coronavirus cases.
Although the rate in Yarmouth increased to 116.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to October 19 - up from 54.4 the previous week - Mr Smith said the council was reaching out to households in the worst-affected areas.
Around Marine Parade and Northgate, where the rate last week climbed to 216 and 357 per 100,000 people, officers leafleted 3,000 properties, and over half-term will be stepping up the presence of coronavirus marshals to make sure people follow the rules.
He said: “We’re currently in a peak, but hopefully a strong message can help bring the rate down to a reasonable level.
“We always knew there’d be a rise in winter cases, we just need to hold them off enough to stay in tier one.”
Slough, Coventry and Stoke were the most recent areas to move into tier two as of Saturday.
In Slough the rate is at 153 per 100,000 people. In Coventry, this jumps to 180.1 and for Stoke 210.2.
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Mr Smith said: “We don’t know exactly what’s causing the spike in Great Yarmouth. We can allocate some to the food processing plants, as we have quite a lot of people from the town working there, but we also know it’s out spreading in the community.”
For businesses in the area, staying in the tier one threshold is crucial.
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For Andrew Livingstone, landlord at the Duke’s Head, the curfew is already bad enough. To be hit with even more restrictions would be damning.
“I took over the business in November last year, and everything was going great. Then Covid hit,” he said.
“As a late night bar, we get most of our trade from 10pm-1am.
“Despite loyal regulars coming earlier, the curfew has hit us hard. Moving into tier two would be disastrous because of the ban on different households meeting indoors.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Likewise for Gail Taylor at Peggoty’s Bar on King Street, forecasting for tier two restrictions is very much on her radar.
“We’re hoping our substantial food menu keeps us going if we move into tier two, but it’s still a worrying time for businesses. I’d say we’re losing around £6,000 a week since the curfew alone came into force”, she said.
“The frustrating thing is that hospitality went all out for a July 4 reopening and made our premises as safe as possible at a big personal cost.
“To then lump the curfew on us doesn’t make sense - because you just get people spilling into the streets and into homes where it’s then spreading.
“We’ve just renewed the lease for another year though - and I would say I’m optimistic about the future. But people need to stay sensible and keep the rate down.”
Debbie Carter, a director at Martyn’s Walk Round Store on Regent Road, said it was frustrating that some people were acting “plain stupid”.
She said: “What doesn’t help is people coming in, taking off their mask, licking their fingers to get a note out their wallet and then handing it over to me.
“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve told people to wear their mask over their nose.
“We’ve had a tough year and we know we’re going to struggle over winter, but it would be a lot better if people could just use some common sense.”
Residents also expressed frustration at rule-breakers, but were generally of the attitude that “life must go on”.
Michael Covill, who lives in the town, said: “I’m not stressed about the rise, but it is annoying when there’s so many people coming here from areas in tier two and three.”
One couple on holiday from Suffolk, Katherine Green and Bradley Smith, said they were aware of the rise in cases in the area but this hadn’t deterred them from visiting.
“Everyone seems to be wearing masks and being sensible - much more than where we live anyway”, Mr Smith said.
“I feel safe here. All the shops have precautions in place.
“Life has to go on eventually.”