Market traders in the West Midlands say business was already tough before coronavirus – and now they fear a second wave or local lockdown could be the “final nail in the coffin”.
The borough of Sandwell, which includes West Bromwich, Oldbury, Tipton and Smethwick, is currently in the top 10 of areas in England with the highest rates of infection.
This leaves it in danger of having local restrictions being forced upon it by the government.
Sandwell’s rate of infection rose to 28.1 per 100,000 people in the week up to 27 July, from 26.9 the previous week.
Last month, West Bromwich Albion was promoted to football’s Premier League but now the area is climbing a less welcome table.
In the town’s market, trade is only just beginning its return to health after the rigours of lockdown and none of the stall holders or shopkeepers want to see a second wave.
Brett Packer has been selling clothes and home furnishings at the market for more than 15 years.
He said trade was already tough before coronavirus.
“It used to be heaving here on a daily basis, Monday to Saturday,” he said.
“But this could be the final nail in the coffin. And if we get a second wave that could really devastate the whole area.
“If they lock down Sandwell and Smethwick, people will drive to Birmingham, they’ll drive to Merry Hill. They’ve got to do their shopping somewhere.
“And the danger is they might not come back.”
The council is trying to forestall the sort of government intervention seen in Leicester, Greater Manchester, Blackburn, Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford.
It held an emergency meeting on Friday, and has issued amended advice to keep the infection rate down.
The council’s deputy leader Maria Crompton said: “Nationally, the government has advised people who are shielding they could stop shielding from Friday 31 July, but anyone in Sandwell who is shielding is strongly advised to continue to shield to keep themselves safe.
“We know people are looking forward to going out again. However, we are very strongly advising people who are shielding to stay put for now and go out as little as possible.”
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The council has issued the following advice:
- Continue to shield if you are already shielding
- Do not go inside other people’s houses
- Get tested and isolate if you have symptoms
The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has said there are no plans to lock down any boroughs within the region.
But authorities in Sandwell add the caveat that if the new advice is not heeded, more restrictive measures are “highly likely”.