Can Ipswich town centre have a good Christmas if Covid-19 numbers rise?

Will the increase in the number of shoppers in Ipswich town centre continue if Covid numbers go up?

Will the increase in the number of shoppers in Ipswich town centre continue if Covid numbers go up? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Ipswich town centre businesses should be able to continue to attract shoppers despite a rise in Covid-19 cases – if it can persuade shoppers that it is still safe to visit and providing people obey simple social-distancing rules.

That’s the view of Ipswich Vision Board chair Terry Hunt – but he accepts that the next few months could be do-or-die for many businesses as they try to recover from the lockdown losses during the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Hunt said recent weeks had been encouraging in the town – last weekend was particularly busy with many shoppers out on Saturday and a successful return for the Farmer’s Market on Sunday.

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He said: “What we need is to persuade people that is still safe to continue to shop in the town – to persuade them that people will observe social distancing, that you will find people wearing face coverings in shops and to persuade them that they don’t need to feel worried about coming in.

“I think that is getting across, but we have to keep working on it. And we have to remember that the next few weeks are absolutely vital for many town centre retailers who need to make money during the run-up to Christmas”

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The lack of office workers remained a concern, and Mr Hunt still hopes to see more return over the next few weeks – many businesses rely on their lunchtime spending power.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere was also following the rise in the number of cases with interest but remained hopeful that the town centre’s businesses would be able to weather a new storm.

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Some borough staff would be returning to their desks at Grafton House over the next few weeks – but he said that would be purely voluntary and anyone who wanted to continue to work from home could do so if that was practical.

He said: “We do want to boost confidence in the town centre – but the current rise in the number of cases in the country as a whole is clearly worrying.”

While the Ipswich area had not shown any significant increase in the number of cases over recent weeks, it was wrong for anyone to feel complacent and he urged everyone to observe advice on social distancing and basic hygiene in a bid to ensure that the area remained safe heading into the autumn period.

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