COVID-19: Shoppers hit the high street as Tier 3 residents 'angry' over harsh restrictions

·4-min read

Tier 3 residents have expressed their anger for being "lumped" under harsh restrictions as shoppers hit the high street in their droves following the end of England's four-week lockdown.

Much of England is now under Tier 2 and 3 of the new COVID-19 restrictions which limits social contact between households but allows non-essential stores to reopen.

But as early birds hit the shops to avoid the queues as non-essential stores reopened on Wednesday, people across the country have mixed views about the new and harsher tier system.

In Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, where tourism supports around 9,000 jobs, repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic are continuing to batter the local economy in the run-up to Christmas under the new rules.

One local told Sky News correspondent Lisa Dowd he thought it was "crazy" the town was in Tier 3.

He said he felt they'd been "lumped in" with other parts of Warwickshire that have higher rates.

Council leader Tony Jefferson says Stratford has the lowest COVID rate of any Tier 3 area - and points across the border to Worcestershire where the town of Redditch, around half an hour away, has three times the COVID rate but is in Tier 2.

He says Tier 3 decision is "arbitrary and irrational".

Zenios Loucas, owner of the tea room The Fourteas in the town, said he is "disappointed and angry" that he can't reopen due to the restrictions.

The Christmas decorations are up and he had been expecting to welcome customers today, but said he can't make a takeaway system work.

"We are condemned. Usually this place would be full on a day like this - today it's totally empty," he added.

Under the restrictions, much of the town's hospitality businesses and main attractions, including the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, cannot open.

Meanwhile, residents in the Cornish town of Looe, which is now in Tier 1, fear the easing of restrictions will result in people travelling down from Tier 2 to enjoy the freedoms.

"Very worried. It's like a magnet, they'll all just come down here," resident Maureen Rogers told our West of England correspondent Dan Whitehead.

"There are so many holiday cottages here we feel they'll come down for Christmas and bring it [COVID-19] with them."

She added the restrictions mean she will not be able to see her two daughters this Christmas.

"This is the first time we won't see our family at Christmas - I'm upset," she said.

Her husband Hugh put their real concern starkly, saying: "I think there'll be a spike just after Christmas of deaths and illness. We just don't want to see them and die."

Shoppers in London, which is in Tier 2, appear to be feeling more positive about the lifting of the lockdown.

Droves of customers queued early outside high street giants including Primark and Nike Town in the capital's Oxford Street on what is being dubbed as "Wild Wednesday".

Jordan Roberts, 19, who was among a dozen people queuing outside Selfridges before it opened its doors, said it "feels more enjoyable being in a store" rather than shopping online.

On England coming out of lockdown, she said: "It's good to have our freedom back."

London shopper Tamara Rass, 44, said she hit the stores early with the expectation that shops would get busy.

She said: "For me, it's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and getting back to normality.

"There are things in store that I can't get online and I like to treat my daughter once a month."

Across the West End, independent stallholders in Covent Garden welcomed their first customers after nearly a month.

One such stallholder, Jane Ireland, said she wasn't feeling too optimistic.

She said the tier system posed challenges in that regular customers from outside of London are unlikely to travel to the capital if they are from a different tier.

"A lot of customers over the years would come down from places like Scotland to go to the theatres and then here but people can't leave their tiers," she said.

"It's chipping away at potential customers."

Health secretary Matt Hancock warned on Tuesday that England's tier system will have to remain in place for the "forthcoming few months" until a vaccine is generally available.