Uttlesford businesses 'disappointed' with Freedom Day delay

A town square with tables scattered around it for social distanced dining

Alfresco in the Square in May: a BID to aid hospitality while restrictions remain in place. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford businesses are "disappointed" at the delay to the lockdown easing roadmap.

Covid-19 restrictions were due to lift today (June 21) at the earliest, but a national rise in coronavirus cases saw the Government extend coronavirus restrictions in England until July 19.

Restrictions include the "rule of six" - a restriction on indoor gatherings to six people or two households - and a ban on singing or dancing inside.

Sandra Bennett, manager at The White Horse in Hatfield Heath, shared her disappointment.

She said: "We will have to put off events, local group get-togethers and buffets.

"That reduces income once again."

She added: "Our regulars have carried on supporting us.

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"But the fact that I have got to limit numbers inside really does mean I need more help once again."

Sandra praised Uttlesford District Council for allocating emergency funds quickly.

The district council allocates funding to small businesses on behalf of Essex County Council and the UK government, including the Restart Grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality firms.

Saffron Walden Business Improvement District (BID) has called on retailers to Keep Calm and Trade On.

Julie Redfern, Vice-President of Saffron Walden BID, said: "Whilst we are disappointed that the full reopening will be delayed, we appreciate public safety must come first."

The BID represents a number of small retailers in Saffron Walden and has provided signage and sanitiser in the town.

In May, it ran an alfresco dining event in Saffron Walden Market Square in an effort to encourage customers back into hospitality venues after restrictions on non-essential retail eased on April 12.

Three people, two of whom are in Hi-Vis, stand under a gazebo

Volunteer Michelle (left) with BID chair Julie Redfern (right). Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Julie said: "Together, we have a real opportunity this summer to help our town centre recover from the pandemic and really thrive.

"If we are to succeed, we need people to be able to shop freely and we need our businesses to be able to operate without restrictions as soon as possible."

Today, restrictions on the number of guests at funerals and weddings have been lifted.

Social distancing and the "rule of six" remain in place indoors.

Up to 30 people can form a group outdoors.

Latest Covid data

According to data released yesterday (June 20), the rate of Covid-19 infection in Uttlesford was the fourth lowest in Essex. But figures were up.

For every 100,000 people in the district, 24.7 tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the seven days leading up to June 20.

When lockdown last eased on May 17, the rate of cases per 100,000 was 8.8.

Colchester has the highest rate of Covid-19 in Essex at 72.9.

The Government releases neighbourhood-level data weekly.

In the seven days leading up to Thursday, June 10, seven cases were identified in Saffron Walden.

Seven additional cases were identified in Audley End, Ashdon and the Chesterfords.

Five cases were identified in Flitch Green, Felsted and High Easter, while three were found in Takeley, Airport and Mountfitchet South.

A total 45,701 people in Uttlesford had received two coronavirus vaccines by the end of Saturday, June 19.

The jab was offered to people aged 18 and over from last Friday (June 18), and 37.6 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the district have taken up their offer of a vaccine already.

Yesterday marked three months since the last Uttlesford death within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, on March 20.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex County Council’s Director of Public Health, said the most severe Covid-19 cases are seen in those who have not been vaccinated.

He said: “I cannot emphasise enough the importance of following the rules and getting vaccinated when it is your turn.

“It is vital that people do not make-up their own rules or believe their actions won’t make a difference.

"Everyone’s behaviour is crucial to us managing the spread of the virus."