Covid lockdown one year on: Worthing’s traders reflect on a harrowing year

Today marks twelve months since the announcement of the first national lockdown left our streets deserted and businesses fearing for their survival.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 11:28 am

Today marks twelve months since the announcement of the first national lockdown left our streets deserted and businesses fearing for their survival.

An alien experience which practically nobody had been through before, it was an extremely uncertain time for everybody – not least Worthing’s traders.

As rumours began to spread early last year of a mysterious virus thousands of miles away in China, many of us took them with a pinch of salt.

Worthing Town Centre on day 1 of the second lockdown. Pic Steve Robards SR2011051 SUS-200511-172846001

But soon it had reached Europe and, as cases grew exponentially, we watched in horror as countries like Italy recorded staggering death tolls and entered total lockdown.

Cases surged in the UK, supermarket shelves were stripped by panic buyers and thousands of former nurses and doctors registered to return to work to deal with an influx of patients.

Finally, on March 23, Boris Johnson addressed the nation to tell us we would be entering lockdown from March 26.

A raft of economic support measures were also announced, such as the furlough scheme and cash grants, to stop businesses going under.

Worthing’s town centre manager, Sharon Clarke, has reflected on a harrowing 12 months.

“In the run up to lockdown the businesses were nervous about what to expect,” she said.

“When the news came of a full lockdown most were shocked at the extent of what was put in place and concern over how they would get through. Once the dust settle the Great British fighting spirit came through with businesses using their supply chains to help customers with products in short supply, new online stores created in weeks and delivery offers in abundance.

“The help from Government, and the council’s speed at getting grants to those that needed them, really helped ease the pain.”

Lockdown restrictions began to be eased in May, with the UK confirmed as having the highest death toll in Europe with more than 32,000 deaths.

The economy began to open up at pace, with initiatives such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme aimed at boosting the hospitality industry.

Sadly the worst was yet to come, as another lockdown in November was followed by a relaxation of the rules over Christmas.

That led to another lockdown and a surge that has taken the UK’s death toll to over 126,000.

The success of the vaccination programme has brought optimism, but the UK has one of the highest death rates per capita and one of the worst economic disasters in the world.

Sharon said: “A year on and, although a little weary, the businesses are still fighting and can’t wait to welcome customers back on April 12.”