Fear new lockdown rules will impact on the most vulnerable
Sandbach’s placement in tier two of the Government’s newly-imposed local lockdowns has prompted concerns for the vulnerable people of the town.
Deputy mayor Coun Kathryn Flavell told the Chronicle this week that she was worried that shielding had not yet been reintroduced in England.
She said: “I’m having some concerns for people ending up in social isolation again. In the first lockdown, there were shielded people who had special allowances with deliveries, but this has not been brought up this time.
“The Government has not been clear about support bubbles either and how that works. With winter and dark days approaching, it is going to be even more difficult for some people. I hope that Sandbach Town Council and Cheshire East can do something to help those vulnerable people.”
On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that the whole of Cheshire East – including Sandbach - would be placed into the “high risk” tier two category. It is hoped that new restrictions will prevent the further spread of the virus in the borough, which has recently experienced an uptick in infection levels.
The new rules now in force mean people must not socialise indoors with anybody from outside their household or support bubble. This applies, for example, to going inside at a friend’s or family member’s house or meeting people from outside their household in an indoor public space. It also applies to meeting with people from outside their household inside a pub or restaurant. This is no longer allowed.
“The rule of six” still applies in outdoor spaces. This means that people from different households can meet in a group of up to six people outside, including in private gardens, beer gardens and alfresco dining, or other spaces, like beaches or parks, (other than where specific exemptions apply). However, the 2m distance rule must still be observed.
The leader of Cheshire East Council, Sam Corcoran, who is a Sandbach resident, said this week that he was pleased that legislation granted the authority additional powers over establishments that were not complying with the rules, but said that he was “disappointed” the borough had not been “consulted” on the tier two restrictions.
He said yesterday (Wednesday): “We are still seeing a rising rate of infection in Cheshire East, and we must all do what we can to slow the spread of the virus.
“I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard and sacrificed so much to fight Covid-19. Without your positive action we would be in a much worse situation.
“Today, the rate of positive cases for the previous seven days for Cheshire East was 158 per 100,000 population. This is above the England average of 150.1/100,000 cases.
“We only learned of the tier two measures shortly before the prime minister’s announcement yesterday and did not have detailed information regarding the regulations until later. So, we need to take some time to fully understand how the new measures will impact Cheshire East’s residents, businesses and communities.” Coun Flavell, who is portfolio holder for children and families at Cheshire East Council, also criticised the Government for not consulting with the borough. She said: “We have been aware that cases have been going up really rapidly in Cheshire East and we made requests with certain powers, but I have to say that the restrictions put in place were not done with the council’s consultation, although we’re happy that something is being done.
“There is still a great deal of confusion about the new measures and frustration that there is not enough information from the Government.”
Meanwhile, business owners in Sandbach have been understanding of the need for greater restrictions in the region as cases continue to rise.
Andrew Pear, the chair of Pear Hospitality Group, which owns the Wheatsheaf, at Hightown, said: “From the leaks in the Press and the information in the public domain, I think we were all waiting to hear whether Cheshire East would fall into tier two or not, so I was unpleasantly surprised that it did.
“The Wheatsheaf is probably in a better position than many hospitality outlets because we’ve got an outdoor terrace that is covered and heated, so we’re able to accommodate tables of up to six from mixed households.”
Despite inconvenience, Mr Pear expressed support for the Government’s approach so far. He said: “We’ve had an awful lot of support from the Government with both the furlough scheme and the Eat Out To Help Out initiative. We couldn’t ask for very much more.
“We are facing a virus, it’s not anyone’s fault. The most important thing is that we keep customers and staff safe and I hope that we can look forward to the spring and a vaccine in the future.
“I can understand that others may have some frustration, but I don’t share it. The science shows that the younger age groups are contracting the virus at the highest level, so the question is do we close the schools? Or do we try to dampen everything else first? I think it’s important that we keep schools open.”
At the height of the pandemic earlier in the year, Thomas Wilson, owner of TW Printing on Station Road, used his company’s phone line to help elderly people who were unable to pick up shopping or prescriptions while in isolation.
The hotline was a success, with around 20 people who had been furloughed manning the phones. Mr Wilson said he was expecting demand for the phone line to pick up again as a result of the prime minister’s announcement.
He said: “Over the initial lockdown period, it went really well. There were about 20 people in the group who were answering the phones and taking requests for things like prescription collections.”
Of the new restrictions, Mr Wilson said: “We all have our own views. I am not too sure what the new rules are exactly, and I would say that it’s quite complicated with guidance changing all the time. I will take it as it comes and continue to look into it.”