Cambridge City Council has had to make the difficult urgent decision to temporarily close Cambridge Market on public health grounds. This was on advice from Public Health officials that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Market Square was becoming dangerously high.
Councillors were told that a full closure was unavoidable under current tier rules and the terms of the market’s charter. However, the decision is under constant review and, work is already underway (and will continue in the week ahead) to plan for a safe reopening, focusing on essential food stalls. During the first lockdown, shopping at the market was a COVID-safe way to shop, and as soon as the market can reopen safely in a similar way it will do so.
STAY SAFE CAMBRIDGE
The new virus variant means that cases and the risk of transmission are now higher than even last spring. Cambridge is also experiencing a significant rise in cases over recent weeks and the council’s first responsibility – one which all councillors and residents can agree on – is to keep our city and its people safe. Whilst indoors is more risky for transmission, the new variant is far more transmissible. That means that outdoor queues and groups also have to be addressed, especially when social distancing can’t be easily enforced.
The council has been using marshals to try to keep the market safe for use since June, and has also made changes in the market area to create more space. Sadly marshals are too often ignored when they request people and groups to distance safely (they do not have enforcement sanctions).
As Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre has responded to concerned residents;
‘I’m sure that you are one of the many residents like me, who shop at the market for essential foods in a safe and socially-distanced way. However there have unfortunately been lots of people coming into the city centre, congregating in groups and making it impossible to maintain social-distancing. We are arguably at the most dangerous time in the pandemic so far; infection numbers are rising rapidly within Cambridge and many surrounding areas are now in crisis or have declared a major incident, which is putting a greater strain on our local NHS services. This has been exacerbated by the new Covid-19 strain which has now been proven to be approximately 50% more transmissible.”
Along with the rest of Cambridge, councillors and council officers are extremely grateful to the market traders for the essential part they have played in keeping residents fed during COVID. The Council has supported market traders all the way through 2020 and will carry that through into 2021, including continuing to work on long term plans to improve the area for both traders and customers. We will make sure traders are kept fully informed and will continue to explore all possible options to support them, and we urge those who haven’t yet applied for a business support grant to do so here: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/additional-business-support-grant. We will also be working with Public Health and the police to make sure that local shops are complying with the COVID regulations.
READ MORE about Cambridge Labour’s 2020 progress on building new council housing, protecting the city’s environment and supporting local residents here.
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVICE
The closure was made on the advice of Dr. Liz Robin, Director of Public Health at the County Council. Liz’s advice was as follows;
“COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise across England, including in Cambridge city where rates are now more than 4 times higher than in early December and we are seeing increasing pressures on our NHS.
“One in three people with the virus will not show any symptoms – which makes it very easy to pass it on to others. We are also conscious that the new strain of the virus is circulating in this area, which is much more easily transmitted making it likely that more people will catch the infection.
“These facts mean that Cambridge city moved into Tier 4 from Boxing Day, and make it essential that the measures that stop the spread of the virus are adopted by everyone.
“People living in Tier 4 areas should stay at home as much as possible, only mix with those we live with all the time, wash or sanitise our hands well and often and stay in well ventilated places.
“If we go out for essential reasons like work, food shopping, education or worship we must keep at least two metres away from anyone we don’t live with and wear a mask where this is required.
“Although the risk of transmission of the infection is lower outside, it is still there and the risk is increased in areas where it is more difficult to avoid or control overcrowding or queuing.”