Watching the bustle of shoppers outside the DIY hypermarket on London Road in Bedford, it was hard to understand that this was the front line in the UK’s evolving battle against the Covid-19 variant which was first detected in India.
This part of the city had seen the largest increase in Covid cases in Bedford, itself one of the few hot spots in the UK where the variant has gained a foothold.
Growth rates in the Bedford to Kingsbrook area have been remarkably high. On May 1, reports indicate that he had recorded 0 to 2 cases of Covid per 100,000 inhabitants. A week later that number had risen to 157, effectively bringing that area of town back to levels last seen in November, at the start of the second lockdown.
Still, the mood of shoppers outside Kingsbrook’s sprawling B&M store was largely mixed. If the arrival of the new variant B.1.617.2 was to cause panic in the streets of the capital, it had failed.
” Scared? Not me. I’ll be fine, ”English teacher Tamika Da-Conceicao said, adding that she caught Covid over Christmas and was convinced the resulting antibodies would protect her. “But I will always be careful of others because some people can get very sick,” she said.
Nebin Thomas, 32, a nurse at nearby Bedford Hospital, said he intended to continue living the same despite the arrival of the Indian variant, but warned others may have to be more careful. “I know it’s here, and I will continue to be careful, but the elderly and vulnerable may need to be more careful.”
Nearby at furniture retailer Dunelm, staff said customer numbers had returned to pre-pandemic levels. Traffic too. Vacant parking spaces were hard to find in the large store parking lot.
Cases are increasing across town, not just in the Kingsbrook area. Bedford Borough Council said the rate of Covid infections per 100,000 residents had more than doubled from 39.8 to 84.3 in one week.
Public health officials on Thursday discussed the worrying fact that the majority of identified cases of Indian variants were “unrelated to travel” and instead may have been spread by people socializing.
The next day, the council requested that all residents aged 16 and over be vaccinated. With restrictions in England to be eased further on Monday, officials admitted Bedford had reached “a precarious point”.
Back at Kingsbrook, inside the Golden Fish Bar, staff member Adam Gorbuz said the arrival of the Indian variant did not affect the behavior of any of his customers.
“Everyone continues as usual, just trying to live their life. I don’t think people care too much, to be honest, ”he said.
A customer in his 50s walked in and Gorbuz asked him what he thought of Kingsbrook’s latest Covid developments. The man shrugged and ordered his “usual”. No one seemed worried.
Gesturing bumper-to-bumper traffic on London Road while pushing her granddaughter in a pink pram, Vicky Spencer said: “It’s back to normal. People have learned to live with the virus. Looking at this, it is as if the virus is not real. “
Even those classified as vulnerable did not appear disturbed. An ambulance driver – who did not want to be named – who had asthma and had his spleen removed, appeared relaxed when B.1.617.2 arrived.
“We still don’t know how bad it is. This is just speculation at the moment, and most of what the government says I take with a pinch of salt. How bad could that be?