In 2020, the world saw a pandemic - the so called 'Covid 19', or Novel Coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China during January of that year. Locally, there was not much effect until in February when five cases were reported in Brighton. The first confirmed case locally happened on the thirteenth of March.
Under a directive from central Government, all un-necessary shops and businesses were closed indefinitely, this closure starting on the 17th of March 2020 and being formalised in law four days later - the only shops able to remain open being food-stores, petrol stations, pet and health supplies. All schools closed except for providing a provision for children with parents carrying out essential work. Working people in all un-necessary services were placed on a government funded furlough scheme that guaranteed 80% of their pay. People were advised to avoid all un-necessary travel and remain close to, or in their homes. Hastings Borough Council closed all public conveniences and shut down non-essential services.
Locally, this resulted in huge queues forming outside supermarkets for food with reported stock-piling and panic buying, leading to many items being restricted, however many smaller food shops reported an increase in foot-fall and turnover.
In an effort to document the effects of the Covid 19 lockdown, Hastings Museum invited members of the public to keep 'lockdown diaries' detailing their lives and how the virus had affected them. In total, nearly 100 people returned diaries to the museum, consisting of written words as well as imagery.
Number of cases
In the three month period between March 1st and May 31, Hastings saw 55 confirmed cases of the disease, the third lowest in the UK with a total of nine deaths.
Relaxation of restrictions
Restrictions started to be lifted on the first of June with a limited range of shops and outdoor facilities able to open and people being permitted to travel out of their immediate area for exercise. A number of the digital information signs on roads leading into the town advised visitors that Hastings remained closed for tourism, with Council leader Kim Forward saying:
“Our position is clear, it hasn’t changed. This is because our priority remains, and will always be, keeping our residents safe.“
“We have one of the lowest infection rates in the whole of England and we intend to do our part to keep it that way. So, for now our amenities will stay closed. We want to keep Hastings safe and these cannot just be empty words, they must be backed up by actions. Opening our amenities will encourage more people to visit and will lead to increased risk of infection.“
The Black Lives Matter protest - the 'Rally against Racism', arising from the death of a man whilst in police custody in America, took place in Alexandra Park against the backdrop of Covid precautions, most protesters were reportedly wearing face-coverings and attempting to ensure social-distancing rules were applied
On the 15th of June, the Priory Meadow shopping centre initiated a one-way system for shoppers with numerous sanitation stations provided - the shops re-opening being listed as F. Hinds, J. D. Sports, Kids Stuff, Shoezone, Primark, H&M, CEX, The Fragrance Shop, The Perfume Shop, o2, Vodafone, Yours Clothing, Clarks, Game, Schuh and The Works. Large queues were reported outside many of the shops re-opening.
Public Conveniences and Transport
Face coverings for all those utilising public transport was required by law from the 15th of June, with local rail-services running double length trains to assist in social distancing People were allowed to gather in family groups out-of-doors at the same time. The weather was hot and sunny and Hastings saw a large number of people head into the town from elsewhere to take advantage of the beach. There were a number of complaints about individuals defecating and urinating in public spaces due to there being no public conveniences open. Following these complaints, a number of public toilets were re-opened in high-traffic locations, however five of them were vandalised soon after re-opening.
Discharge of longest-staying patient
The patient with the longest stay out of those admitted to hospital of some 97 days, of which 53 were in critical care - Steve Honeyball - was discharged from the Conquest Hospital to a scene of cheers and applause from staff and visitors on the 24th of June. Director of Nursing, Vikki Carruth, said:
“We are all so happy for Steve Honeyball and his family. He has been in our care for long time and during that time so many people have played their part in getting him ready to go home. It is a story of determination by Steve himself and the commitment and dedication of so many of our staff who I am extremely proud of. On behalf of everyone at the hospital we wish Steve all the best as he continues his recovery at home.”
On the 25th of June, police closed the road leading into Camber, following all car-parks being full of visitors. This was one of a number of closures that had happened since the outbreak.
A public testing station was set up on the stade car park on the 8th July 2020 manned by members of the armed services.
The traditional week of events surrounding the Old Town Carnival were cancelled on the 26th of July 2020 following an announcement by the council that they would not permit public events to take place on any land owned by them until October 2020 at the earliest.
The Hastings Academy reported a pupil showing Covid symptoms on the 23rd of September, with another the following day. Following a number of teaching staff showing symptoms of the virus, it was decided to close the Hastings Academy from the 1st of October to the 14th of October to all but children of key-workers.
A second period of lockdown was announced for England on the 31st of October; this was to run from the 5th of November to the 3rd of December. Again all non-essential shops and businesses were to close. As a result of this announcement, it was decided to scale back Remembrance day events to a simple ceremony where the Mayor would lay a wreath at the War Memorial in Alexandra Park.
Subsequently the country was placed into 'tiers' from 1 to 3, with the third being those areas with a higher than expected rise in cases. Hastings was placed into tier 3 with effect from midnight on the 19th of December, with a national 'easing' of restrictions for the Christmas period. This was replaced within approximately 24 hours by the creation of a new 'tier' following the detection of a faster-spreading variant of the virus - tier 4 for those areas with exceptional rises in cases. Hastings was placed into tier four, along with Rother with effect from 00:01 on the 20th of December 2020 with a review of this on or before the 30th of December. All non-essential businesses were ordered to close and travel in/out of tier four to be kept to a minimum and only essential journeys carried out.
A rumour developed on Social Media that there were road-blocks set up by the police, however this was stated by the police to be false and a press release was issued to that effect.
The 'Tier 4' restrictions were extended on the 23rd of December, to take effect on Boxing Day whereby all of East Sussex would be under the same restrictions.
References & Notes
- Coronavirus: First case confirmed in East Sussex | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- BBC News Hastings Lockdown Diaries accessed: 13 Aug 2020
- The number of Covid-19 deaths in each area of Hastings | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- We’re STILL closed – council’s message remains the same: keep Hastings safe! – Hastings In Focus, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- Hundreds attend Black Lives Matter protest in Hastings: in pictures | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- These Priory Meadow shops will reopen today | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- 5 Hastings public toilets vandalised just days after reopening | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- Patient leaves hospital after 97 days recovering from Covid-19 – East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- Hastings Museum & Art Gallery - Posts, accessdate: 25 June 2020
- Here is why a coronavirus test unit was set up in Hastings Old Town | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 26 July 2020
- Hastings Week cancelled | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 26 July 2020
- Second case of Covid-19 at Hastings secondary school | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 2 October 2020
- Home - The Hastings Academy, accessdate: 2 October 2020
- Covid: What are the new tiers and lockdown rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? - BBC News, accessdate: 21 December 2020
- Police have not set up roadblocks around Hastings and Rother | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 21 December 2020