Plans to make Sidmouth ‘the safest and the best’ place to visit when lockdown ends

Ian Barlow, chair of Sidmouth Town Council. Picture: Ian Barlow

Ian Barlow, chair of Sidmouth Town Council. Picture: Ian Barlow - Credit: Archant

Face masks and hand sanitisation could be compulsory for customers in all of Sidmouth’s shops, under plans to make the town ‘safer than anywhere else’ following the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

From June 1, non-essential shops are expected to reopen in phases, although hotels and restaurants will remain closed until July at the earliest.

Sidmouth Town Council has been in talks with local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, the Vision group and the county council to find the best way forward.

The chair of the town council, Ian Barlow, said: “We need the businesses back working, it’s very important that we have the extra money that the tourists bring in.

“We can’t change the fact that people are going to come, but we can look at what we can do to make our town safer than anywhere else.

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“People have got to feel safe to come here, whether it’s on holiday, for a day trip, whatever it is, and our residents have also got to feel safe with them coming and welcome them in.”

A questionnaire is being drawn up to gauge the views of shopkeepers on the proposal for compulsory masks for customers and hand sanitisers in all shops.

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The council would supply the masks at their cost price of 50p each, and shopkeepers could decide whether to give them to customers for nothing or ask them to pay the 50p charge.

But Cllr Barlow feels strongly that every business must come on board.

“If all the shops do it, people will soon get used to wearing them,” he said.

“If you look at places where they live with this more - China, Singapore, Hong Kong - they all wear masks and you’re the odd one out if you don’t.

“The quicker we can get there, the better it will be.

“Once you get to the beach or the Byes you’ve got two metres around you, so you take it off.

“It just makes sense to me.”

Cllr Barlow said he thinks the Government will eventually make masks compulsory.

“But I would like Sidmouth to be ahead of the curve, I want Sidmouth to be the first, the safest, the best place to go because we’ve done it for a while and we’re used to it,” he said.

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