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Coronavirus crisis turns Ipswich in to ghost town

PUBLISHED: 17:37 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:47 17 March 2020

The Town Hall  in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus and the Prime Minister's statement on Monday   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Town Hall in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus and the Prime Minister's statement on Monday Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Ipswich has become a ghost town in the wake of the coronavirus crisis - and there are fears the situation will escalate.

The Corn Exchange in Ipswich has been closed   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Corn Exchange in Ipswich has been closed Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The high street is usually awash with shoppers and workers going about their shopping and lunch duties but in the aftermath of the Prime Ministers press conference yesterday the streets today were virtually empty.

Ipswich market is usually thriving but has now fallen quiet amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVISIpswich market is usually thriving but has now fallen quiet amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

Boris Johnson urged the general public to stay indoors where and when possible, and many have taken heed of his isolation advice and are steering clear of public places and built up areas.

Alex Williams, manager of Fishface cafe in Ipswich, has seen a dramatic effect on business since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVISAlex Williams, manager of Fishface cafe in Ipswich, has seen a dramatic effect on business since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

Unfortunately, this has had a disastrous effect on the local shops and businesses, especially the smaller independent traders such as Fishface cafe based in The Walk.

The Town Hall  in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Town Hall in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Manager Alex Williams has noticed a significant drop in sales since the outbreak but especially in the last 24 hours.

Businesses are suffering with most people staying at home.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNBusinesses are suffering with most people staying at home. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“To put it into perspective, it’s about 12.30pm right now which is our lunchtime rush. The ground floor would normally be full, and upstairs would be half full. Today we’ve had four customers in.”

Princes Street in Ipswich was quieter than usual  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPrinces Street in Ipswich was quieter than usual Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More: Ipswich Borough Council closes museums, swimming pools and sports centres

Losing at least 50% of a normal day’s trade, Mr Williams has had to shut the cafe an hour earlier each day as it has not been worth remaining open, sending staff home due to lack of revenue to pay wages.

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNShoppers in Ipswich town centre Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Just gradually over the last week trade has started deteriorating to the point of reducing staff which is difficult because everyone has their own bills to pay. We’ve already noticed a decrease in the afternoon so instead of staying open until 5pm, we are now shutting at 4pm just until this blows over.”

Alex Williams, manager of Fishface cafe in Ipswich, has seen a dramatic effect on business since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVISAlex Williams, manager of Fishface cafe in Ipswich, has seen a dramatic effect on business since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

He continued: “I spend quite a lot of my time at the till looking out of the window and there’s always people going up and down the path, pushchairs fighting to get past each other but as you can see, there’s just one or two people.

Annette Harper runs the jewellery stall on Ipswich Market and has noticed a massive drop in trade since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVISAnnette Harper runs the jewellery stall on Ipswich Market and has noticed a massive drop in trade since the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

“The customers that have come in today have said they’ve basically got the whole of Ipswich to themselves.”

Museum Street in Ipswich is usually thriving but has now fallen quiet amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVISMuseum Street in Ipswich is usually thriving but has now fallen quiet amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

Ipswich market has also suffered a loss in profits and whilst you usually struggle to get through the throng of customers milling around the market stalls, today there was a clear way through with just a handful of people browsing the stalls.

The shelves are still being stripped bare of toilet roll, as pictured here in Poundland in Ipswich, amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVISThe shelves are still being stripped bare of toilet roll, as pictured here in Poundland in Ipswich, amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

More: Live coronavirus updates here

Jewellery stand trader Annette Harper said: “We haven’t been very busy, at all. I think everyone’s just a little bit worried and standing clear of each other. We’ve absolutely without a doubt seen a massive drop in customers just in the last week, a dramatic drop. They’re just being careful with their money and buying the essentials. If you’re not sure what’s going to happen with your job and your financial situation in the coming months, then you are just going to buy what you need and save your money.”

“I will try my very best to carry on but my husband has got lung problems and my daughter is pregnant so I have to be careful but at the moment I’m being as safe and careful as I can possibly be.”

In the larger stores, shelves are being emptied faster than staff can load them up. From toilet rolls to medication, the shelves are scarcer than ever.

A worker from Wilkinson’s said: “We simply cannot get the stuff out quick enough.”

If you are concerned about coronavirus, see here for regular news and advice.

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