Today is so-called Freedom Day, the Government’s target date for ending Covid restrictions. But what does it mean to you? Folk Features asks people in this part of the region what they are doing differently from today – or not, as the case may be
Jon Clifton, Norfolk photographer (pictured above):
‘A cautious approach to ‘Freedom Day’ for me. It’s great to see people back enjoying all the incredible things Norfolk has to offer but with infection rates rising, I’ll be keeping my mask on in enclosed spaces for a while longer. While we do of course need to get back to normality, it’s important to still look after one another.’
Joshua Worley, of norwichmarket.net and Barry’s of Norwich fabric stall:
‘So today is a day to certainly be cautiously excited about in our opinion and I think the opinion for Norwich Market as a whole.
It’s quite clear that the link between Covid cases and deaths and hospitalisations has been massively reduced by the incredible efforts of the NHS Vaccination Service. But at the same time, we’re seeing more and more people catching Covid, and being required to self-isolate.
As such, we’re really pleased that Norwich City Council has decided to continue to require people to wear face coverings on the market.
We want to keep the Market open, and we can only do that by keeping the market healthy. While the Delta variant is still ripping across the UK, wearing a face covering helps stop customers, stall traders and their respective families becoming ill which means we can ALL enjoy the market without stalls having to close down due to sickness.
On Barry’s, we’re also asking customers to continue wearing face coverings on our stall until we’ve gotten a better grasp on the virus across the country, but we’re very very much open for business and are doing this to stay that way!’
Clive Evans, CEO of the Sue Lambert Trust:
‘Freedom day at Sue Lambert Trust will pass as many other days over the last 16 months. Daily, people find the courage to come forward to seek help and support to deal with the trauma they are left with after experiencing sexual abuse. And for us we will continue to provide a safe, kind and supportive space, and through our network of 70 volunteer trained and qualified counsellors, and a small team of staff, our clients will receive the support to recover, heal and build resilience. We already know that lockdown and the impact of the pandemic has increased people’s anxieties and added to deteriorating mental health, and we have already seen, since January this year a jump in people seeking our support. We also understand that it is likely that this demand for our support will continue throughout the year and possibly beyond. Our hope is that we will be able to meet this demand by increasing our capacity both in skills and financial resources to ensure everyone can access the support they rightly deserve. We also hope in coming out of the pandemic we will have learnt to be kinder and appreciate each other a lot more so we can create a more caring and nurturing society.’
Pippa Lain-Smith, Managing Director of Plain Speaking PR:
‘For me, step 4 is currently a step too far. Whilst it’s great that so many people have had both Covid vaccinations and we are seeing less Covid-cases leading to hospitalisation, we have to continue to be sensible. I am grateful to be able to meet my clients and friends face to face again and to share a hug with the people I love. But Covid cases are increasing rapidly and clearly link to social gatherings. I will therefore continue to wear a mask in shops and enclosed public spaces and, where possible, will keep a safe distance from people I don’t know. When I see images of people in Indonesia, Brazil and India dying from Covid without access to proper medical care, it breaks my heart. Regular hand washing, social distancing and wearing a paper mask seems a small price to pay to keep our community safe. The term ‘Freedom Day’ makes my stomach turn. The only freedom that comes from removing all legal limits on social contact is for our Prime Minister, who is effectively freeing himself from responsibility until the rules change again.’
Chris Elliott, Marketing Manager of The Feed in Norwich:
‘We are keeping our approach of making The Feed a safe place for customers, staff, people using our Community Fridge and those participating in our projects. This means things are much the same from 19 July – our staff will wear masks, hand sanitiser is available and we encourage everyone coming in to wear a mask when standing and to check in on the NHS Covid-19 app.’
Message from the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:
‘As a busy hospital Trust, we need to maintain high levels of infection prevention and control and we are asking all staff, patients and visitors to continue to wear face masks and appropriate PPE when inside the hospital and carry out regular hand decontamination. We will still routinely screen patients when admitted to hospital and ahead of pre-planned treatment. A booking system will be maintained for visiting patients on inpatient wards and visiting restrictions remain in place. More details on visiting restrictions are here Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust » Visiting (nnuh.nhs.uk) and we will continue to monitor the situation. We will also be maintaining social distancing in the hospital, and where appropriate, some outpatient appointments will continue to be run remotely by telephone or video call. Please help and protect your community by ensuring you have had both Covid jabs and take part in rapid testing to limit the spread of the virus. Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding.’
Jonny Manning, co-owner of Beach Street Felixstowe:
‘I’m pleased that we have reached this point but hope that people act responsibly and use their common sense, I’m also grateful for Beach Street being a largely outdoor venue with a sea breeze for natural ventilation!’
Amanda Matthews of Refill Leiston:
‘For me, especially with cases rising all over, it doesn’t make any difference. I will still be continuing to take all the same precautions I have been up to now. I will carry on wearing my mask and sanitising everything, and I politely ask that my customers continue to wear their mask, unless exempt, and use the sanitizer available whilst also being mindful of other customers and keeping to social distancing as best as possible within the shop.’
Tracey Goddard, of Refill Eco in Woodbridge, Suffolk:
‘At Refill Eco the safety of our customers is paramount and due to rising cases I will be wearing a mask to protect others and we would ask customers who are not exempt to still wear a mask. We will also continue to allow five people in our shop at a time to to allow space for customers to move around safely. We hope that as time goes on, we will be able to change some of these rules and welcome lots of new customers to our shop.’
Tracy Richer of The Waffle Shack, Beach Street Felixstowe:
‘We are happy that we no longer have to wear masks as we love to see people’s smiles. We are happy to not wear them as we have a well ventilated shop and not many people seem to be sitting inside anyway. We will ask people if they would like us to wear them and then wear them accordingly.’
Sam Luxford of Navistitch:
‘I have mixed feelings about freedom day, with cases on the rise again easing restrictions feels a little uncomfortable. However we have to learn to live with the virus and with much of the population now vaccinated the impact on the NHS is much reduced and the economy needs to get moving again. I will continue to offer face coverings on my Etsy shop as they still have their place. Many people are choosing to still wear them and many businesses are still requesting that customers wear them. I’m hoping that most people will continue with a sensible attitude and continue with many of the habits such as masks and distancing that we have become used to. Please stay safe and stay sensible.’
Catherine Jeans, The Family Nutrition Expert, and her daughter Lucia, mask maker:
‘Freedom day is here, but I think there’s a lot of fear around what this means for the future. In my family, we’re just trying to take it one day at a time, and focus on the little things that make us happy. Time in nature, time together, space on our own, delicious food and fresh ingredients. That way, whatever happens after freedom day, our bodies and minds are in the best place to cope with whatever comes. Plus we will be keeping up with the daily Vitamin D.’
Matthew Conway, Director at Dipple & Conway Opticians:
‘For us at Dipple & Conway Opticians, Freedom Day doesn’t mean any big or stark changes. We’re a clinical setting so pre-pandemic we have always been really careful about keeping people safe when they visit us for eye tests, with rigorous hygiene measures in place. The pandemic meant we stepped this up to ensure we were able to continue with essential eyecare appointments.
Our governing body has issued really clear advice and with cases rising at the moment, they have advised all opticians to remain on an ‘amber’ alert, meaning our optometrists and staff will wear PPE and we’re respectfully asking people to wear masks when they visit us.
Now is not the time to relax the rules entirely. In Norwich this morning I noticed that the majority of people were wearing masks, myself included. I think it’s instinctive to want to keep everyone safe and protect those around you.
So for me, today is not a day for celebration or throwing away our masks but continuing to take small steps so that eventually, we will reach a stage where the virus does not pose a threat to people we care about or to our amazing NHS. It’s a day to look forward and be optimistic but we have to be careful and cautious too.’
David Scott, CEO of The Hotel Folk (who own and run six hotels across Suffolk):
‘After much thought we decided to make it optional for our guests and teams as to whether or not they preferred to wear a mask. At the Brudenell Hotel today on Aldeburgh’s coast, I would say around 80 per cent of guests had chosen not to wear a mask.’
Catherine Riley, the director of Primadonna Festival | Visit East of England, taking place in Stowmarket between 30 July – 1 August:
‘We’re pleased to be able to go ahead as we always planned to, but know some festival-goers will want to feel reassured that we’re doing all we can to keep them safe. We’re introducing a range of measures to make that happen, and look forward to welcoming our wonderful audience to what we promise will be ’the world as it should be’, for one weekend.’