Cautious approach as town prepares for end of Covid restrictions
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth is gearing up for so-called Freedom Day - when the government’s Covid restrictions are finally lifted - and the general mood of the town seems to be one of cautious approval.
Sidmouth’s MP, Simon Jupp, has backed the government’s plans to go ahead with the full easing of covid restrictions set for Monday, despite rising numbers of cases in the constituency.
In the seven days to July 7 cases in East Devon rose by 64 per cent, climbing from 108 to 277. There are now more than 189 cases per 100,000 of the population.
Mr Jupp said: “Cases here are still lower than the average for the UK. I don’t see any reason not to open up, as long as people follow personal and social responsibility and look after themselves.
“That involves getting the vaccine when it’s their turn, including the second dose and, also, if they choose to, wearing face coverings if applicable.”
He added: “That’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be taking it on a step-by-step, case-by-case basis to decide whether I want to wear a face mask in a certain scenario. I think moving from mandated state intervention to a more personal responsibility – it’s your choice but you’ve got to be mindful of those around you – is exactly the right way to go.
“I’m happy for the unlocking to take place next week. I don’t think we can call it ‘freedom day’, I don’t think that’s helpful as a narrative, but I do think that overall it’s a good thing for our area.”
Mr Jupp added: “At some point, we have to open up. At some point, we have to have some semblance of normality.”
Mr Jupp praised the vaccine rollout locally and nationally and emphasised the importance of opening up fully for the economy.
He said: “We could be cautious forever about new variants that come forward and I don’t think our economy could stand it.”
Sidmouth councillor Stuart Hughes told the Herald: “As a county council member it’s good to at last be able to have meetings face to face and to network with members from other local authorities. Virtual meetings have a place to play but aren’t the panacea some make them out to be.
“It is, however, important to exercise caution as the pandemic is still with us and I certainly will continue to use face coverings and where possible retain social distancing.”
Retired Sidmouth estate agent Mike Dibble said: “A lot of this revolves around social distancing and mask wearing. I, like many people that I have spoken to, will go with the flow.
“If I’m in a packed indoor location I will probably wear a mask, especially if the staff and vast majority of customers are wearing one.
“Personally, I am looking forward to wearing one less often but I know a lot of people are very pensive and it would be heartless not to make them feel more comfortable in certain environments. A supermarket queue and an indoor entertainment venue would be two good examples.”
Mr Dibble added: “On the sporting front, it will be good to be able to take the pin out for short putts, rake the bunkers and get access to tap water on the golf course!”
Sidmouth businessman Vince Page told the Herald: “We are mindful of the euphoria which is about to sweep the country and feel it must be tempered with a degree of caution.”
Mr Page, owner of Antiques on High, added: “There have been ramblings about the wearing of facemasks and both Lesley and I will continue to wear a mask in our stores and have advised all our antique dealers who work in our stores to do the same - and reassuringly have been met with full support from all of them. They are all responsible people who fully understand the implications and I would expect nothing less.
“From a business perspective we hope the lifting of restrictions brings more people to this glorious seaside town and we look forward to seeing many people whom we haven’t seen for a while from all over the country - although we hope they bring with them a modicum of common sense and crucially respect the decisions of others.”
However, the leader of East Devon District Council Paul Arnott is concerned about full reopening. He said: “July 19 is destined to be an unwelcome infection accelerator unless people have the good sense and consideration for others to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing, as at present.
“In my view, with so many local people still at only a single jab [stage], this has come two months too soon and looks like a bid for ‘herd-immunity.’
“I suspect Devonians have more common sense than this and will continue to lead productive lives while continuing to exercise great caution.”
Steve Brown, director of Public Health Devon, has urged people to remain cautious. He said: “There’s no question about us sitting back and doing nothing.”
“We need to take personal responsibility, remain cautious, and continue with the efforts we have made so far in helping to stop the spread.”
“I am pleased to hear clarification from our prime minister that the wearing of face coverings in crowded places – which would include public transport and any indoor space where there are other people – is still recommended, despite it no longer being a legal requirement.”