Covid lockdown one year on: Shoreham’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, 11:05 am

An alien experience which practically nobody had been through before, it was an extremely uncertain time for everybody.

Ben Towers had opened The Pad in Shoreham’s East Street the summer before and, late last year, helped to found a new Shoreham Independent Traders Group.

He has reflected on his feelings at the beginning of 2020 as rumours began to emerge of a mysterious virus thousands of miles away in China.

Shoppers in East Street, Shoreham SUS-200616-152703001

“Initially when the reports of people getting ill came in we didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

“For me I thought ‘it’s okay nothing will happen to us’. Even when one of the first cases was reported down the road in Hove I still thought it would blow over quick.”

But cases grew exponentially, 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.

We watched in horror as countries like Italy entered total lockdown until, on March 23, Boris Johnson addressed the nation to tell us we would be doing the same from March 26.

Ben Towers, owner of The Pad in East Street

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

Ben said: “When the first lockdown happened I was stunned – how would the business survive? How would we be able to cover our mortgage? What would the impact be on my young girls?

“The Government’s financial support was a massive help and eased financial concerns, we then focused on using the first lockdown as family time and actually enjoyed spending so much time together.”

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.

Ben continued: “At the end of the first lockdown we thought that’s it and we could crack on as before. How were we to know another two would happen?

“The view now is one of optimism. Proud of the country’s efforts in finding and rolling out a vaccine, as traders we want to open as soon as possible but we still want people to be careful, we do not want to be in another lockdown. “Covid will not go away, we now have to live with it as part of our everyday lives, but we can cope with that if we can get some normality back.”