‘Masks on at last’ but traders and residents share fears in new lockdown
IT IS quietly busy in Caerphilly in the hours before local lockdown is put in place. A queue is snaking out of Iceland in Cardiff Road as people wander up and down the street, the majority wearing face masks – both new sights, according to locals.
As of 6pm on Tuesday it is against government rules to enter or leave Caerphilly borough without a reasonable excuse, or for people to meet those from other households inside their homes.
For those having to adapt to another “new normal” after the sudden change in rules, announced on Monday night, it is a lot to take in.
Sitting on a bench with her back to Caerphilly Castle, Margaret Carter, 87, has not long started to leave the house again after lockdown was first introduced in March.
She has found the past six months lonely.
Margaret, who has lived in the town all her life, said: “I thought it wouldn’t come back, I was hoping and praying it wouldn’t come back.
“I stopped in for 12 weeks and then I had an accident and broke my shoulder so I’ve only been out since last week.
“No-one would come and see me because they were afraid to pass it on.
“Some people brush past you [in town], they don’t care. I haven’t really been out a lot apart from the odd shop with my granddaughter.
“I suppose with the amount of people that are getting it and dying it looks like it’s the only thing to do, it’s the only solution.”
Emma Jones, 43, is also in the same situation as someone who shielded for 12 weeks with her parents.
She said: “Yesterday [Monday] they weren’t listening but today they are. People are wearing masks today.
“I was already in lockdown for 12 weeks and now there is a new lockdown I will do it again. I live with my mum and dad and I don’t want to be out and about.
“I haven’t been to see my daughter in a year and now there is another lockdown in place and we are not allowed to travel out of Caerphilly.
“The adults have been as bad as the youngsters but they’re blaming it on the youngsters.”
Gareth Davy, 44, is one who was not surprised to hear the news. He has seen first hand people ignoring social distancing and meeting in homes – something Health Minister Vaughan Gething has attributed to a rise in cases in the borough.
Gareth, who works in security, said: “I expected it. People are partying in the streets, there was about 200 in the next street over from me.
“People are getting bored of staying in and with a second lockdown to come they will get bored again.
“After the first one you could see friends in pubs and restaurants, it looked like it was getting back to normal.”
Among those visiting the town centre, views are mixed on the new rules.
While some wearing face masks are crystal clear on the rules, and believe the whole country should be under lockdown, others have found the measures ill-communicated.
Jane Lazenby, 64, said: “They’re leaving businesses and pubs open when that’s where everything is coming from, I think.
“There is no social distancing and it’s the same in shops.
“I feel sorry for young parents with children on their own. They have got to go to school otherwise they will be prosecuted.
“I have got my grandson starting school and I’m petrified for him, he’s only three.”
Looking directly onto the castle ruins, Glanmor’s cafe is usually full when it comes to lunchtime.
On Tuesday, however, only a handful of diners sit in the eatery, being served by the staff all wearing face visors.
Manager Lynne Evans said it was likely they would have to cut back on the 16 staff usually working per day if business remains quiet as a result of lockdown.
She said: “I thought Caerphilly was doing well but it’s got to be done.
“It’s been exceptionally quiet, people aren’t coming out much. Normally at this time of year we’d get lots of foreign tourists visit the castle, which is great, but we haven’t had any of that this year. It’s a worry, really.
“I think everybody thought that because they used the word ‘lockdown’ that everywhere was closed, but of course we’re not.
“People have been ringing up asking are we closed and I’ve had to say ‘no, we’re open’. Normally this time of day we’re packed.”
Nick Ashraf, owner of clothing store Bagz, is also someone who is understandably worried.
On Monday he was returning to Caerphilly with a load of new stock when the lockdown news was announced.
He said: “We were closed for over three months and that was really hard. We were suffering anyway being on the high street and with Brexit we were struggling anyway so lockdown was totally devastating. Yes, we did receive some help from the government with grants and rates but for businesses is only a pinch of sand by the time you pay your expenses.
“What are we going to do this time now it’s the second time around? It’s worrying times. I’m trying my best, on Monday I went up north and I bought new stock for the new season, we are trying to get back on track.
“I spent a lot of money on stock
and I think I am going to be sitting on it for a long time. I didn’t think a lovely town like Caerphilly would be on lockdown.”
Nicola Downie, a florist, has also seen her trade fall this year as wedding orders were cancelled.
She is currently serving behind a Perspex screen, with no customers allowed in the shop. She said: “We’ve been operating like this since we returned to work in May.
“I haven’t had a customer in my shop since March.
“We’re obviously lucky that we can do business like this, there’s lots of businesses in the town centre that are unable to work like we are and I really feel for them. We’ll be OK because we’ve been taking orders from the telephone and website since May.”
Over in Blackwood, High Street is quieter, with a marked drop in the number of people wearing face masks.
Tucked in Gravel Lane, Sarah Wareham and Darren Ingram, of Woodie’s cafe, have received a number of calls from concerned customers asking whether they’ll be shut due to lockdown – an assumption which is not the case.
Darren said: “Most of our time today has been taken up by people asking what we know.
“We had a couple just come in this afternoon saying they were coming to see us before we close down for a month. They use the word ‘lockdown’ and ‘Caerphilly lockdown’ and a lot of people think it’s back to the start.
“We had a bakery message us saying ‘do we want to cancel the order?’ It affects the supply chain, we have had staff asking us if they need to come in.”
Sarah added: “Tuesday is normally the busiest day in Blackwood, it’s market day. It should have been a great day with the children back at school – last week we were expecting Tuesday to be our busiest day.”
While Eat Out To Help Out proved a huge success for the cafe, bringing it back to up to 80% of its regular trade, Sarah and Darren believe it will take time for customers to build up their confidence once again to return to the town centre.
For them the government grant given out at the start of lockdown in March was gone as soon as it hit the business’s bank account, used to cover the £3,000 they lost in stock as well as wages and rent.
Across the road, Sarah Gurmin is director of Savepoint Gaming shop. She has a shrewd observation to make about the new lockdown rules.
She said: “We had one person comment, ‘So I can see my granny in the pub but not in her house?’
“When we first opened it was doing well but now the last week has been getting quite quiet. Lockdown will either scare people away from town or we will get people who will think they’re not affected.”