A city where hundreds of factory workers have tested positive for Covid-19 now has the highest rate of new cases in England. What does this mean for traders on an already struggling street?
Even before nearly 300 people tested positive for coronavirus at a sandwich shop, Northampton was already on a watch list.
The county police chief had warned that the county seat was “in danger” of locking down, unless people take precautions and residents are urged to “limit contact” with people “outside their home.” home ”.
When news of the positive tests at the Greencore site broke, Borough Council chief Jonathan Nunn described it as a “huge disaster” but said the authority “hopes it’s still the case ”that a lockdown could be avoided.
The city has lost large stores in recent years, leaving large units empty on the main shopping street.
A local lockdown, such as the one within 40 miles of Leicester, would have other serious implications.
It’s a nervous time for many businesses in the city.
“I worked during the darkest hours of the lockdown”
Steffans Jewelers has been a feature of Northampton town center for over 40 years.
Owner Wes Souter said sales have been “very positive” since the nationwide lockdown was relaxed, but is concerned about the pressure the pandemic is putting on business owners.
“I worked through the darkest hours of the lockdown,” he said, revealing how he spent days in the closed Abington Square business handling online orders and “fearing that we wouldn’t ‘were going to be looted’.
He said, “It’s a story of anxiety and fear. For a lot of business owners, this is what it looks like. “
As the busy Christmas season approaches, Mr Souter said he was unable to take a vacation this year.
The potential for a Northampton lockdown added to his concerns, with questions swirling around whether he would be able to lay off staff or which companies should shut down.
“If the advice is to close the doors, stay away from city centers, but businesses don’t have to close and we don’t get help, what happens then?
“It’s waking up every morning thinking ‘I hope Northampton won’t be locked up today’. “
By Daniel Wainwright, BBC England Data Unit
A total of 262 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Northampton during the week ending last Saturday – three times more than the week before.
There have been 97 cases recorded on August 10 alone and 94 the next day, although those numbers were initially higher until the data was updated on Wednesday.
While this gives Northampton the highest rate of new infections in England for the week – nearly 117 per 100,000 population – in England as a whole the rate was 12 per 100,000.
However, the vast majority of Northampton’s cases for the week – 208 – were from the Moulton area of the city, which is home to the Greencore plant.
The second highest area was downtown and Semilong, where 12 cases were recorded in the week to August 14.
“Small and brilliant companies would struggle”
Northampton city center has struggled before the world even heard of Covid-19.
On Abington Street – the main thoroughfare – about a third of homes are vacant, as retail giants like M&S, BHS and House of Fraser have vanished from the downtown landscape.
The borough council acknowledged that it “wanted something better for the city” and last year unveiled plans to use money from the government’s Future High Streets Fund to tackle some of the problems in the city. long time.
They want more independent shops and cafes.
Cafe Track, located in the central market square and functioning as a social enterprise, is a great fit.
Yet the restaurant, which helps people with autism find jobs, has not reopened since the country went into lockdown.
Owner Tom Cliffe said he plans to do so on August 3, but a Covid-19 testing center has opened right outside the cafe’s doors.
Although Mr Cliffe says such tests are essential, he had to postpone the reopening as only six people can sit inside the cafe.
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He said the center is essential in trying to prevent the city from ending up in a local lockdown, but hopes it can be moved elsewhere.
At the end of the day, Mr Cliffe wants to do everything to avoid the lockdown: “If that means it’s negative for us but it saves the city, that’s a good thing.
“There are a lot of bright, independent small businesses out there that would struggle. “
‘The city did not have the chance to recover’
One such independent business is Vintage Guru, a two-story boutique on St Giles Street that features a cluster of small market-style traders.
He turned two on Tuesday and owner Julie Teckman said trading numbers have remained stable since he was able to reopen.
But she said that “the city is really in trouble” and that while some customers “act like nothing has happened” others are “really worried”.
Ms Teckman said figures showing cases of Covid-19 in the city often only confused.
“Some days we’re in the top 10, some days we’re not so people don’t know what’s true,” she said.
She said she hopes authorities can “succeed” in avoiding a local lockdown.
“The city center was destroyed and he did not have the chance to recover.
“It’s great to have loans so that we can keep walking, but you have to know that there is something to come back to. “
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