'The new normal' - How life in Chesterfield could look after Covid lockdown is eased

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the public to be patient and stick with the coronavirus lockdown in a bid to avoid another surge in infections – but there are signs the Government is on the verge of relaxing some of the strict restrictions on daily life that were put in place in March.

By Jessica Dallison
Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 7:35 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 7:36 pm

Soberingly, it could take many months or even years for the freedoms everyone enjoyed in January 2020 to be fully reinstated. Instead Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who deputised for Mr Johnson when the PM was taken ill with Covid-19, has warned that people will need to get used to a ‘new normal’, with social restrictions required for ‘some time’.

The form this will take has not been explained in detail – but politicians and others have hinted at ways the lockdown could be eased.

This is what life could look and feel like in Chesterfield soon.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned that people will need to get used to a ‘new normal’, with social restrictions required for ‘some time’.

Shops and non-essential businesses

Places like The Pavements and East Midlands Designer Outlet could be coming back to life in the not too distant future. However, Mr Raab has indicated that retailers and other companies may need to change how they work, bringing in measures similar to those seen in supermarkets and other essential shops that have stayed open – such as rules to keep workers and customers at least two metres apart, one-way systems in aisles, plastic screens at tills and the availability of hand sanitiser.

A trip to Next or M&S will feel very different. The British Retail Consortium has advised clothes shops to consider closing and restricting access to toilets and changing rooms.

There are likely to be separate entrances and exits, and contactless card payments will be encouraged, alongside increased cleaning and hygiene. There may also be limits on the number of shoppers who can browse at any one time.

Lockdown in Derbyshire. Empty Low Pavement Chesterfield.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs

So many people are eagerly awaiting their first post-lockdown pint, whether it is at one of Chesterfield’s characterful independent pubs or a local Wetherspoons. But whether pubs, and dining venues, will be among the first non-essential businesses allowed to reopen is a moot point, given their reliance on atmosphere and the need for a sizeable number of customers to stay afloat. Austria and Italy have announced that such establishments will return from May and June respectively – in the UK, Government adviser Professor Robert Dingwall told Radio 4 last week that beer gardens should reopen if social distancing could be enforced.

Schools

From Parkside Community School to Hasland Junior School, secondaries and primaries in Chesterfield have been shut for weeks to all but the children of key workers. Mr Raab has said it is ‘inconceivable’ classrooms will reopen as they were before lockdown; more outdoor activities have been suggested, and social distancing will probably be needed during lessons to keep pupils apart.

In Scotland, the idea of limits on class sizes has been put forward. "Classrooms may have to be redesigned to allow social distancing, so maybe not all children can go back to, and be at, school at the same time," said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"Do we have to take classes and divide them into two, where half of the class is there one week and the other half another week?" Ms Sturgeon said. "Or one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon?"

Germany plans to reopen schools gradually from May 4. Officials there have drawn up guidelines that include spacing between desks, breaks at staggered times, better hand-washing facilities and supplies of disinfectant. In Denmark certain year groups have been returning to nurseries and schools, while other students must carry on working from home.

Construction

Despite the lockdown, progress has been made on Chesterfield’s Northern Gateway Enterprise Centre on Holywell Cross “Donut” Car Park. Chesterfield Borough Council said it wants the site to be available for businesses to move in to at the “earliest possible opportunity and benefit the local economy”. Chesterfield Borough Council’s contractor, Robert Woodhead Ltd said: “We have developed stringent operating procedures, risk and method statements to enable us to deliver this exciting project.”

Museums and galleries

Sites such as Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery are waiting for the green light to return after they closed completely to visitors to slow the spread of Covid-19. In Berlin, museums are reopening on May 4 – precautions there include reduced visitor capacity and more frequent cleanings. Italy and Belgium plan to open museums again too next month – in Belgium, face masks must be worn in public by everyone over the age of 12; citizens receive one free mask each from the Government.

Festivals and major events

While June’s RHS Flower Show at Chatsworth was cancelled, Chatsworth Country Fair is still scheduled to go ahead at the start of September and tickets are still up for sale. Planning for July’s Stainsby Festival, held in large marquees in the picturesque hamlet of Stainsby, next to Hardwick Hall, has been ‘suspend’ according to organisers. But, organisers have said that people should still keep it in their diarys and said if they can hold it then they will. So maybe we will see more events come back on once restrictions are eased.

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