Confusion and uncertainty for businesses on Leicester lockdown border

There has been confusion and uncertainty on the hastily imposed Leicester lockdown border, where businesses had been gearing up to welcome back customers.

Sitting on the invisible line that forms part of the boundary governing where new tightened restrictions are in place is Stoughton Grange, on Gartree Road.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Firms as diverse as a pottery painting shop, a gastro pub and a bridal boutique have found themselves inside the country’s first local lockdown, subject to the new measures.

Businesses that had spent the past few weeks deep-cleaning, applying fresh paint and hanging baskets full of flowers have now been told they must remain closed.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tightened restrictions on parts of the city and nearby suburbs on Monday, ordering non-essential shops to close and urging people not to travel in or out of the area.

Measures were imposed following the rapid rise of coronavirus cases in the city.

A report by Public Health England has found “no explanatory outbreaks in care homes, hospital settings or industrial processes”.

Some businesses are unaffected as they are not open to the public, or deal solely online, but for others the new measures have brought fresh uncertainty.

Mel Heel, owner of Bridal Reloved, who has her store in Stoughton Grange, said she found out about the lockdown in a message from a friend late on Monday night.

With two bookings the following day and her diary full of fittings until August, she said had been looking forward to reopening but knew the local measures were coming.

However, she said there had been no direct contact from local councils or health officials, or signage put up, to make clear where the lockdown fell, or what specific measures were needed.

“To find out 9.20pm that you can’t open the next day, when you had been building up to get back to work, wasn’t great,” she said.

“I’d got two appointments the next day, as I’ve only been doing a couple per day – the dresses have to be steamed and cleaned and put into quarantine.

“So it’s frustrating, really frustrating.

“All these businesses here were only opened within the last couple of weeks, and many are now having to close again.

“I think the way in which the lockdown was put in place and communicated to people could have been handled better, though I think it’s absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe.”

Seeing that her business was on the border, she looked at a map produced by local authorities showing the lockdown area in red.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020
Mel Heel in her wedding dress boutique Bridal Reloved in Leicester. (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I couldn’t make head nor tail of it,” she added. “When you look at the map, the lockdown boundary ends halfway down (Gartree) Road.”

She used Leicestershire County Council’s postcode checker, which showed hers and neighbouring businesses are inside the lockdown area.

Looking ahead, she said: “They’re saying it’s for two weeks, so I am pencilling bookings in for then.

“The lockdown in March was devastating, so I just hope we can all come out of it as soon as it’s safe to.”

Neighbouring pottery painting workshop and cafe, Lollipops, is run by Phillipa Newham, who took over the well-established business last November.

She said she had been getting ready to open on July 4 after remaining shut throughout lockdown because, having an on-site cafe, it was classed as a hospitality firm.

HEALTH Coronavirus Leicester
(PA Graphics)

Mrs Newham said: “We wouldn’t have opened even if we’d been just on the outside of the border, I think, because you can’t take the risk.

“For us, how would we have known where people had come from? I think it’s going to be really difficult for businesses to monitor that.

“The reason this has happened is because some other people haven’t followed the rules we’ve all been following here. They’ve got a different moral compass.”

Speaking earlier this week, county council leader Nick Rushton said: “Clearly coronavirus does not adhere to lines on a map.

“This is the first localised lockdown on this scale and undoubtedly there will be issues to iron out.”

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