‘We can’t be complacent’ - call for Norwich to pull together to stop coronavirus rise
PUBLISHED: 09:08 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:09 14 October 2020
Let’s take action now - to save lives and prevent tighter restrictions down the line.
That’s the message from community leaders in Norwich as the city fights to slow down a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases.
Much of the city’s outbreak can be traced back to University of East Anglia students, with 65 currently having tested positive as of Tuesday evening, down from 73 on Friday.
On Monday, three students at the university were fined £10,000 for organising a party with 100 people in Bowthorpe Road. The university said its own testing system, in partnership with the Earlham Institute, had identified more than three quarters of students who had tested positive.
But Alan Waters, leader at Norwich City Council, said “there is still a long journey ahead of us all”, despite the city being in the lowest of the three tiers.
He said: “With infection levels rising in Norwich, like we’re seeing in other parts of the country, we can’t afford to be complacent. Recent cases show this isn’t related to one group in the community, it’s increasing across the city and therefore we all need to play a part in stopping the spread.
“We will continue to play a crucial role in tackling Covid by working closely with Norfolk public health, and our many other partners, to respond quickly to the threat posed by the second wave.
“The £88,000 of government funding we recently received has helped us to recruit frontline Covid-19 support officers so they can advise the public and businesses in order that we can work together to keep the city and its residents as safe as possible.”
Norwich has so far made a good recovery - in August, Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich’s Business Improvement District, said since July the city had seen weekly footfall increases of 10,000.
The city’s MPs backed the call to act quickly to stop the situation worsening - Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, said it was “so important” to control the spread of the virus.
“If we don’t all pull together to do that, we risk the NHS getting overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases and the hospitals not being able to do anything else, like cancer care,” she said.
“It is still a similar risk of that as it was in the spring with cases rising like they are. That is why everyone’s efforts are necessary.”
And Clive Lewis, Labour MP in neighbouring Norwich South, said the government had failed to communicate “reliably and consistently” about the pandemic.
“It’s because we can’t rely on them that we are going to have to do as much as we can to keep ourselves safe,” he said.
“This lethal disease is still with us. The best chance we have of defeating it are still diligently doing the fundamentals that prevent transmission and infection. So please keep social distancing, washing your hands, masking up and stick to the rule of six.”
Norwich’s infection rate is roughly similar to that of northern cities four weeks ago, before tighter restrictions were imposed there.
Towns and cities in the north and Midlands - which are now living with tougher restrictions on socialising - recorded similar rates to Norwich’s current level in September.
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In Nottingham, where a surge in cases was also linked to students, the case rate was similar to Norwich’s current level on September 26, with 71 infections per 100,000.
It then soared to the highest rate in the country - at more than 800 per 100,000 people.
Elsewhere, Liverpool, which on Monday was placed in the highest bracket of coronavirus restrictions, had a similar rate to Norwich’s current level on September 8.
Business as usual for city shops
A shopkeeper has praised people in Norwich for their compliance with coronavirus rules as cases rise in the city.
Leanne Fridd, at Timber Hill’s Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, said uncertainty over the last fortnight had not appeared to impact trade.
“Surprisingly we’ve been a bit busier in the last few weeks,” she said. “Though I think because people are afraid that we are going to go into lockdown they’ve started doing their Christmas shopping.
“There is a little bit more anxiety but generally we’re carrying on as normal.”
She said on the whole it had been business as usual at the bookshop, and that she had not had to tell one customer to wear a mask since those rules were introduced.
“We have never had a problem and people in Norfolk have been very compliant, so we’ve been lucky,”she said.
Another lockdown would be ‘disastrous’
A landlord of a pub and music venue which is due to soon reopen for the first time since lockdown has urged the public to follow the rules.
The Brickmakers, on Sprowston Road, is hoping to reopen at the end of the month after receiving a £174,958 share of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
It had stayed closed since lockdown started, saying restrictions on live performances made it unviable.
But Charley South, who runs the pub with Pam South and Emma Rose, said another lockdown would be “disastrous”, not only for the pub but for the musicians and performers who rely on venues being open to make ends meet.
“We have got to do what we can,” she said, “and all we can do is follow the guidance to keep everybody safe.
“We’ve just got to get on and do it so hopefully we can get back to normal.”
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