Town takes first steps back to normality as Covid numbers drop
- Credit: UK government data
A sense of post-Covid normality beckons for Dereham as the town's sports clubs reopen and virus case numbers continue their downward trend.
The most recent government figures show only three cases in each of the areas of Dereham North and Neatherd, and in the area of Dereham West, Necton and Gressenhall.
Fewer than three cases were recorded over the same time frame - the seven days to March 24 - in Dereham Central and Toftwood.
Stuart Green, town mayor, said he was pleased to see the numbers had been brought down so far.
Mr Green said: "There are very few cases at the moment which is good for everyone, but people still need to remember to be careful. We're headed in the right direction to be free again on June 21."
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Mr Green said he hoped people would support Dereham businesses and shop local again once they were allowed to reopen.
He said: "With the vaccine I think people will feel safer and more able to do that. We've had a few retail stores shut down in the town and it may take some time to get them re-filled or look at other options."
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In one of the first large sporting events in the town for months, 100 children from aged four to 12 took part in a free football camp at Dereham Town's Aldiss Park grounds on Wednesday.
Dereham Education and Soccer Academy ran the camp in partnership with the club, which also saw about 20 volunteers aged 16-18 help run games and kick-abouts for the younger ones.
Luke Milligan, an academy tutor, said the children were thrilled to be back out on the pitch.
Mr Milligan said: "I think everyone has struggled with the lockdowns and the pandemic, so being able to get them out there in the first week of this half term and giving them the opportunity to play football with their friends is great.
"I've got a younger brother myself who has really missed playing and just being able to have a laugh with his friends and see smiles on their faces.
"We also wanted to run the camp for free because we know a lot of parents have struggled financially during the lockdown."
During the morning youngsters rotated around different activity stations, and in the afternoon there was a tournament.
Mr Milligan added: "I think everybody's looking forward to a spring and summer full of sport that got cancelled last year."
And the tees are busy again at Dereham Golf Club.
Stuart Goodman, club secretary at the Quebec Road site, said this week's reopening had been "fantastic".
Mr Goodman said the club's tee booking system was fully booked on Monday, the first day they were allowed to play.
He said: "It's been lovely to see lots of members' smiling faces, just delighted to go back out onto the golf course again. People were out in shorts in the fresh air and good weather enjoying themselves.
"The course is in good condition, the green keepers have spent a long time preparing it."
Mr Goodman said the golf club was now open every day from 8am until dark and they were planning to run a four-day Easter competition.
"We've had quite a few new members and quite a few green fee paying visitors," he added.
Meanwhile, Aldiss Park Bowls Club, which normally doesn't start playing until mid-April anyway, has also seen an uptick in interest.
Anita Smith, from the club, said 50 people had already renewed their membership, ready to play, which was an increase on the roughly 30 players they had last year.
She said all but a couple of their members were of an age where they will have had their fist vaccine jab by the time they started playing, and some will have even had both doses.
She said: "I think last year people were a bit more wary about playing, and we appreciated that.
"But this year more people are keen and they're looking forward to having a bit of exercise and seeing each other socially, even if they are all two metres apart."