'Busiest November ever' - Shops and pubs in north Norfolk prepare for Christmas
- Credit: Archant/Archant/North Norfolk District Council
North Norfolk's traders and pub landlords have reported an "exceptionally busy" November, while council leaders are urging people to get tested for coronavirus before attending parties.
With just three weeks to go until Christmas, business owners agree a renewed requirement to wear masks in shops will not harm trade, as most customers had kept wearing them anyway.
It comes as several cases of a new Covid variant called Omicron have been reported across the UK, including at least one in north Norfolk.
Iain Wilson, leader of Love Holt, the town's chamber of trade, said: "The town has been the busiest it's ever been for this time of year. Just over two years ago Holt had 18 empty shops. We now have two empty shops. All the shops that have opened are independent traders."
Mr Wilson said Holt's lights switch-on on November 19 had drawn more visitors than ever before.
He said: "There is a real positive, buoyant mood about the town. Lots of people are reporting they are trading very well. Holt had one of the lowest rate of Covid cases in the UK."
Moya Roseby, of Rags and Bags women's clothes shop in Church Street, Sheringham, said: "There have been a few people in Christmas shopping. It hasn't been overly busy but it's been steady. It compares with pre-pandemic years, just about. We're holding in there."
Mrs Roseby said staff had been wearing masks throughout the pandemic and they asked customers to do so as well. She said: "I'd say 95pc of people are wearing masks anyway."
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Mrs Roseby said another lockdown would be "a disaster" and thought people were wary even before the new variant was found.
"I was getting customers who have been out only for the first or second time," she added.
Sam Grout, of the Old Rock Shop Bistro in Hamilton Road, Cromer, and president of the town's chamber of trade and business, said shopkeepers had reported strong November sales.
He said many locals were preferring to do their Christmas shopping closer to home rather than venture into the city.
Mr Grout said: "New shops opening in the town such as Beast to Block - our new butchers - and Constance and Thyme florists, continue to give a very positive and confident feel to Cromer at this time of year.
"I think we have a high proportion of residents in particular still choosing to wear masks most of the time when out and about so for them, not much will change.
"People have got used to adapting over the last couple of years and I don’t think they are prepared to let the requirement to wear face masks get in the way of their determination to enjoy Christmas properly with family and friends this year."
Jessie Petrie, general manager of the King's Head in Letheringsett, near Holt, said the pub was busier than it had been for years.
She said: "It's been pretty busy. It's nice to have Christmas parties again. Lots of local businesses are coming here to do that. This time last year we were shut."
William Chandler, owner of The Gangway coffee and cocktail bars in Cromer and Sheringham, said: "November is usually a strange month but it's not calmed down as much as I'd expected."
He also said wearing masks at both venues would continue to be optional.
"We're going to continue as it is," Mr Chandler said. "We have windows open in all the premises. It's nice that hospitality is not being penalised for once."
Sarah Butikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), urged people to "be vary careful" in the lead-up to Christmas.
Mrs Butikofer said: "Covid is still very much with us, as has been demonstrated in the last few days. Please respect each other when out shopping and attending events.
"If you think there is the slightest possibility you have Covid, or have been with someone who has, please take a test."
Mrs Butikofer said people going to parties or large gatherings should first take a Covid test, and continue to wear masks.
She said: "I know some people dislike them, and I can understand that, but if you look at the spread risk when wearing a mask compared to when not, then it's just absolute common sense."
Infections rise in north Norfolk
The rate of coronavirus infections in north Norfolk has increased by 20pc in a week, with the district recording 378 cases in the seven days up to November 24.
The district has recorded a total of 7,985 cases since records began.
Figures from Public Health England show that north Norfolk recorded 359.4 cases per 100,000 people, a rise of 20pc compared to the previous week.
The rate for the seven days up to November 17 was 300.5.
For context, the district's highest ever rate was 418 on January 4 this year, during the height of the second wave.
In the county overall, the rate stands at 349 cases per 100,000 people, an increase of 1pc on the previous seven days.
In England, the rate is 440.1.
The percentage of people over 80-years-old in the district who had received their third Covid jab by November 21 was 84.3pc.
For those aged between 75 and 79 it was 83.6pc, while 74.8pc of 70 to 74 and 50.3pc of 65 to 69-year-olds had received their third dose.