Covid-19 lockdown rules: ‘I don’t expect to see any friends until 2021’

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Josh Whipps, 24

image copyrightConnor Johnston

image captionJosh says the first lockdown was different as, like the oft-used phrase, “we were all in it together”

“I don’t expect to see any of my friends until 2021 now, which is upsetting,” says Josh Whipps, 24.

The first-year university student is one of millions of people in England who

woke up to tougher Covid rules on Saturday morning, as areas moved to a higher tier because of rising coronavirus cases.

It is not known how long the new restrictions will last – they could end sooner than 2021, the government must review which areas are under lockdown rules every 14 days.

But for Josh, the next few weeks and months are “going to be very tricky”.

“I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, when your depression gets a lot worse in the winter. So I struggle around this time of year anyway, mentally.”

Josh started university in September, but says: “Apart from being able to get half price on Spotify, I don’t really feel I’m a first-year student. I have never stepped one foot on campus.”

He lives with his mum and dad in Braintree, Essex, having moved back in with them last week because of issues with student finance.

He had been living with London and moved on the day the new restrictions were announced.

“I thought what a perfect day to be leaving London. And about 15 minutes later it was announced for Essex,” he laughs.

“It’s lovely to be living with my parents again but that is it,” he says. With Essex in tier two – high alert – like much of the country, it means he cannot socialise indoors with anyone outside his household.

‘I can’t see my ill mum’

Nikki McReynolds lives in Elmbridge, Surrey, which this week moved into tier two.

She had only just booked flights to Garvagh, Northern Ireland, to see her mum who has breast cancer – but now is unsure whether she is allowed to travel to see her.

She “spent ages yesterday morning” trying to find the answer.

“I trawled through websites,” she says. “I called the Covid helpline and called the NHS as well. The Covid helpline said because Northern Ireland is going to have a circuit-breaker, the advice was not to travel.”

Nikki McReynolds

image copyrightNikki McReynolds

image captionNikki saw her mum two weeks ago but is due to travel back in a fortnight

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Nikki adds: “I know there must be so many people in the same situation and I know they can’t bend the rules because what’s the point of putting restrictions in place?

“Boris has a very very difficult job to do. He’s never going to please everybody.” But she suggests there could be a “get out clause” that eases the rules for people who have a very ill family member.

“But I get it, There’s got to be some strict control,” she adds.

‘I can’t see my girlfriend’

For Georgia Tokely, 24, from Colchester in Essex, the new rules mean she faces another ban on seeing her girlfriend of three years, who lives in Norfolk.

“It’s hard enough being a distance away,” she says.

“She’s sad we can’t see each other but she’s got the point of view there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just moping about.”

image captionGeorgia – pictured here with her girlfriend – says she has generally stayed quite positive

Georgia also adds that while she thinks the lockdown is a good thing, she thinks it’s “a bit random” that two council areas in Essex – Southend and Thurrock – are exempt from being in tier two.

“You kind of think why are they out of it. Why us and not them?”

‘Future for my B&B is bleak’

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new measures dividing England into a trio of tiers for coronavirus restrictions were “vital” to stop the spread of the virus.

The government announced a further 16,171 confirmed cases on Saturday and a further 150 deaths.

And of course it’s not just individuals who are struggling with the prospect of another bout of lockdown restrictions. Businesses are also worried.

Hundreds of miles away in Blackpool, bed and breakfast owners have said the new restrictions are a “kick in the teeth”. The seaside town, along with the rest of the county, Lancashire, has moved to the top level of tier three – very high alert.

Graphic on measures in the new three-tier system for England

October is traditionally one of their busiest periods, local businesses said, as people come to see the Blackpool Illuminations during the school half-term holidays.

“Since tier three was announced, we have already lost £500-worth of bookings for the next two weeks,” says Adam Mayes, who runs the 10-bedroom Phoenix Guest House on Cocker Street.

“Half-term for us is usually our busiest week of the whole year, and now we are down to just six bookings.

“So now we are considering closing for the remainder of the year because it does not feel worthwhile to remain open. It’s a bit bleak.”

Stewart Norris, owner of the Sutton Park B&B on Woodfield Road, told the PA news agency he had lost £1,500 in bookings since the measures were announced.

“For this weekend, next weekend and the weekend after, we are looking at eight cancellations of different groups of guests,” he said.

“On a Saturday night in October we would normally be fully booked with families and couples, but instead we have two double rooms arriving tonight, and that’s only because their travel agent won’t refund them.”

And it’s not just businesses that are in tier two or three areas that say they are suffering.

media captionThere were scuffles between police and pub goers in Soho ahead of London moving to Tier 2

Stefanie Bellerby runs The Bolton Arms in Redmire in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s in a tier one area but they have had a number of cancellations following the changes around the country.

“Basically all our rooms have cancelled recently,” she says.

On Friday, they had to turn away a last minute booking after it became clear the guest came from the Liverpool, a tier three area where people are advised not to travel in or out.

“I had to ask indirect questions to try and find out if they had come from Liverpool,” says Stefanie. “We had to make the difficult decision to ask the customer to leave due to the new tier rules.

“It was not easy,” she adds. “I felt really terrible. The guy wasn’t overly happy about the situation. I felt like I was treating him as if he had the disease. There was no-one to ask if we were doing the right thing.

“It puts us in a very difficult position as we need customers to come to enable the business to survive. But we have to balance that with the safety of our staff and community.”

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