Traders are wrong to contest town restrictions, claims shielding Harleston resident
Business owners protesting against a council’s coronavirus measures have overlooked the needs of shielding residents, a Harleston mother-of-two, who suffers from several auto-immune conditions, has claimed.
Last week, the Diss Express reported how several traders in the town had demanded the reversal of certain social distancing measures – including the pedestrianisation of a number of roads – arguing that it is reducing footfall for shops that are already under severe financial pressure following lockdown.
Fiona Smith, who has been shielding in her home in Mendham Lane, Harleston, since the pandemic broke in March, said she was initially “elated” by the plans to readjust the town centre, and feels disappointed by local traders trying to reverse some of the measures.
“The whole reason the council has done this is for people’s health and safety,” said the 52-year-old, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, fibromyalgia and Sjögren’s syndrome.
“I’m very vulnerable to infections. If I were to catch coronavirus, my chances of surviving are a lot less than your average person on the street, so I had resolved myself to not being able to go out until there’s a vaccine.
“I’m a very sociable person – I meet friends for coffee, I chat in town, and then all of a sudden, I’ve got nothing.”
Mrs Smith (pictred right), who has been relying on her husband, Andrew, 50, and son, Xander, 16, to collect her shopping for the last three months, said the measures implemented by South Norfolk Council would allow her to venture out, safe in the knowledge that she will not find herself too close to another pedestrian.
“When I found out that the council had put these plans in, I was elated, because it gives me a choice to go out and buy my own food, or pick up my own prescriptions,” she said.
She added that shopkeepers who had criticised the measures had failed to consider how important they are for people who are having to shield.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the shopkeepers in Harleston but this has disappointed me,” she said.
“I think it’s sad on their part that they can’t see the bigger picture, because this is something that vulnerable people need.
“I understand why they’re angry, but they haven’t given it a chance.
“There’s still a lot of people in lockdown – you haven’t got all of Harleston out yet. You have to give it a try, and try to make it work.”
Following some back-and-forth between business owners and council officials, certain measures from the initial plan were dropped, with Church Street reopened to motorists, but The Thoroughfare remains closed to allow people to keep their distance when walking.
“They are keeping The Thoroughfare pedestrianised, which I’m 100 per cent behind,” said Mrs Smith. “If I were to go out now, my shopping would have to stay within The Thoroughfare – I wouldn’t go anywhere else and, if they were to bring cars back on to the road there, I couldn’t risk leaving the house at all.”
More by this authorJoe Hadden
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