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Many of those walking through the concrete expanse of Nottingham’s Old Market Square on Thursday were very clear they would be giving the city centre a wide berth this weekend in anticipation of crowds marking the last days without localised Covid restrictions.
“This is the last time I’ll be coming into Nottingham,” said retired Norma Harper, 74, catching some respite along the square’s walls after an unavoidable appointment with an audiologist to fix her hearing aid. “I think the pubs will be full this weekend.”
Harper, who was keeping her pink camouflage face covering on outdoors, has good reason to be perturbed. The city’s coronavirus rate was 496.8 per 100,000 people as of 4 October – the fourth highest in England – and there are currently no extra measures in place on top of those imposed nationally.
Although an announcement – including a ban on mixing between households – was expected from government by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire councils this week, it is understood to have been pushed back until Monday. Earlier on Thursday, a document leaked by NottsLive suggested restrictions wouldn’t come into force in Nottinghamshire until Wednesday.
In response, Nottingham city council’s leader has warned of the “huge burden” placed on local authorities if less Covid-conscious residents view the delay as an opportunity to go out for one last blowout with friends this weekend, running “the risk of making a bad situation even worse”.
It is a view shared by Simon Davies, 60, who – with a Boris Johnson cut-out over his face mask – was out campaigning against the government’s handling of Brexit as part of a Nottingham pro-European group.
“It seems insane not to bring in restrictions sooner. The government is too populist, they want to make people happy,” he said, a desire that came at the expense of public health.
Although Davies said he wasn’t “terrified – I wouldn’t be here doing this if I was”, he added that he felt the city and county councils had taken a “sensible approach in treating people like adults” by advising them to stop socialising before government intervention.
But, with most cases in the city still being among 18 to 22-year-olds, many of whom are students at Nottingham’s two universities, some people believe curbing virus rates will not be a simple process.
Emma Graves, 20, a second-year textile student at Nottingham Trent out for coffee with three of her housemates, said her circle were being sensible, but added she was “lucky enough to live with eight people I like”.
“If I lived with people I hated I might have been tempted to act differently,” she said, empathising with fresher students living in student halls with relative strangers.
A 20-year-old student at the University of Nottingham, out for lunch in the trendy pocket of the city known as Hockley, went so far as to say he and his friends “wanted to catch the virus”.
“It’s a bit of a thing in our house. We kind of just want to get it so that we can stay inside for two weeks and just get it over with,” he said, while the friend he was with added: “It’s just a cold.”
Both added they’d be making the most of what is potentially their last opportunity to hang out in the city centre’s many Wetherspoon pubs this weekend, if they can manage to get a table. “At the minute, all of the Wetherspoons are packed until closing time,” said one.
At Foreman’s, an independently run punk and rock bar on Forman Street – which is lined with chain restaurants and bars – supervisor Jordan Spencer, 28, said this weekend was likely to be busy. “But our customers keep the lights on. They don’t need to have the rules reiterated to them,” he said.
The bar’s staff will be keeping a keen eye on the relief packages offered to the hospitality industry during winter lockdowns. “We’re anxious that some of the places run by [the pub chain] Greene King are already struggling to survive,” said Spencer. “The fact that we’re independent is worrying.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Nottingham locals divided over imminent new Covid restrictions | UK news