Plea for 'safe and sensible' Christmas amid virus fears

The message is: be sensible, but safe for Christmas 2021 in north Norfolk. Clockwise from top left, Richard Grave

The message is: be sensible, but safe for Christmas 2021 in north Norfolk. Clockwise from top left, Richard Graveling, Duncan Baker, Sarah Butikofer and Deb Lewis. Main image: Fireworks over Holt's Christmas festival, by Brad Damms. - Credit: Brad Damms / Archant / NNDC

People have been urged to have a “safe and sensible” Christmas as the new Covid wave has forced some festive events to cancel. 

The government has this week stopped short of introducing further measures on top of the ‘Plan B’ rules around face coverings and vaccine passports.

Stunning drone images show the fireworks at Holt's annual Christmas event

Fireworks over this year's Christmas festival in Holt. - Credit: Brad Damms

And although leaders in north Norfolk have said this was the right approach, they also spoke of the need for support among hospitality and other sectors affected by a drop-off in trade.

Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader, said she knew from personal experience how difficult it was to spend Christmas apart from loved ones. 

Liberal Democrat councillor Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

North Norfolk District Council leader Sarah Bütikofer. - Credit: North Norfolk District Council

Mrs Bütikofer’s mother died after contracting Covid last year and her father passed away this year. 

She said: “The idea of locking people up for Christmas, after what I’ve been through in the past year, is not something which sits comfortably with me at all. 

“I obeyed the rules last year and I will never get another Christmas with my family. I can’t deny that to anyone else because I know the pain, but I would urge caution.”

The 'panto race' at Holt's Christmas lights event

A scene from Holt's Christmas lights event in 2021. Although the start of the festive season seemed relatively 'normal', concerns over the spread of coronavirus have mounting. - Credit: Alan Palmer

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Mrs Bütikofer said people should take a test before going out to socialise, and think carefully about who they were socialising with. 

She said: “We’d ask people to be vigilant and take care. We’re lucky that people in north Norfolk have always been respectful of each other and I would ask them to do that again."

The most recent local data from Public Health England shows that there were 592 cases across North Norfolk in the week to December 15, a rise of 127 (27.3pc) on the previous week. In Broadland, the figure was 868, up by 217 (33.3pc).

Health experts have warned the new Covid wave prompted by the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant will lead case numbers to skyrocket.

But North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said it was still too early to say what effect this would have on public health, especially in light of the booster vaccination programme. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

He said: “It’s not right to impose more restrictions until we are absolutely certain what we’re dealing with.

“I would like people to be able to make their own decisions on risk and personal responsibility.

"The only reason the government would have to step in is if we see such a rise in hospitalisations on the back of case rates, that we have to take action to dampen the spread of the virus.”

Mrs Bütikofer and Mr Baker both said support was needed for those affected by closures and cancellations, and Mr Baker praised the government’s announcement on Tuesday of an extra £1 billion for omicron-hit businesses.

Mr Baker said: “To the many hospitality businesses needing support, I have been raising this through the treasury and very pleased to see this come forward.”

Last week Richard Graveling of The Grove hotel in Cromer said the industry was facing a “lockdown by stealth”.

Richard Graveling at The Grove in Cromer, which has traditional hotel rooms as well as glamping and

Richard Graveling from The Grove in Cromer. - Credit: MARK BULLIMORE

The Thursford Christmas Spectacular had to end its run six days early due to Covid-related absences among the cast and crew. 

And Cromer’s Boxing Day Dip is not going ahead due to concerns around the virus and water safety.

North Norfolk Beach Runners Boxing Day fun run and dip in the North Sea 2015 by Cromer pier, in aid

People taking part in a past Boxing Day Dip in Cromer. The event is not going ahead this year because of concerns over safety and the new wave of coronavirus. - Credit: MARK BULLIMORE

There will be more shows than ever before at the Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2022.

The Thursford Christmas Spectacular finished its run early this year due to Covid-related absences among the cast and crew. - Credit: Thursford

But Clive Hedges from organisers, the North Norfolk Beach Runners, said they hoped to have the dip in spring next year instead. 

Mr Hedges said: "Having spoken to the St John's Ambulance and also the coastguard, they are nervous that they may be asked to only deal with emergency call outs and that's not a risk that I'm prepared to take.

"The country is headed in a difficult direction at the moment and we don't want to be seen to be getting a lot of people together when the government doesn't want a lot of people getting together.”

Dancers at the Cromer Pier Christmas Show.

Dancers in this year's Cromer Pier Christmas Show, which, it is hoped, will finish its scheduled run on December 30. - Credit: Openwide Coastal

Other events including the Cromer Pier Christmas Show, the Sheringham Little Theatre panto and Cromer’s New Year Day fireworks are still going ahead as planned.

Deb Lewis, box office marketing and retail manager at Cromer Pier, said they had not seen a drop-off in audience numbers, and they were “still very positive” about completing the show’s run. 

“We will continue to perform the show until we are told we are unable to," she said.

"We haven’t had any Covid cases among the cast or crew, we’re following all the guidelines and we’ve got the ‘See it Safely’ accreditation to make sure people can feel safe and secure.”

The pier show runs until December 30.