Christmas market shut after hundreds of shoppers appear to break social distancing rules

  • london
  • December 6, 2020
  • Comments Off on Christmas market shut after hundreds of shoppers appear to break social distancing rules

A Christmas market in Nottingham has been shut down after criticism over a lack of social distancing.

Pictures shared online showed large crowds flooding Old Market Square on Saturday, with hundreds of people seemingly breaking the rules by being too close to each other.

Now, the Mellors Group which organises the event in the Tier 3 city, said it has temporarily closed, just a day after it reopened following England’s lockdown.

It comes after police were forced to disperse crowds outside Harrods in London yesterday as hundreds tried to get into the department store at once.

Nottinghamshire Police said officers were at the festive market all day to break up any large crowds in the area, as it falls in the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions.

But Luke Brown, 24, a games designer from Nottingham, said the crowds were “crazy”, adding: “I was on the outskirts of the market as there were so many people on the inside, many people were not wearing any masks at all and there was definitely no two-metre distancing.

“I was highly uncomfortable being there so we literally went home after five minutes.”

Image:
Crowds shopping in central London on Saturday. Pic: Karen Ellis

In a statement, the Mellors Group said: “In light of the unprecedented high footfall seen up and down the country for retail nationally, we have decided to temporarily close the Christmas market.

“The pent-up demand for a city centre offer was far higher than normal and we feel this is the most appropriate way forward.

“This will allow us to monitor footfall in the city centre today and ensure that our activities support residents and local businesses in an appropriate fashion.”

Meanwhile in London, four men were arrested for a string of offences, including affray and breaking COVID-19 regulations, as shoppers appeared to ignore social distancing rules outside Harrods.

Pictures showed large groups of young people taking selfies as they waited to be let in and officers forming a protective ring around the store to stem the flow of customers.

A Met Police spokesman said in statement: “Police were called to reports of a large group of people attempting to enter a shop in Brompton Road, SW1.

Image:
People flooded nearby Regent Street on the first Saturday after lockdown

“Four males were arrested in total – two for affray, one for breach of COVID regulations, and another for a public order offence and breach of COVID regulations. The crowd have since dispersed.”

A Harrods spokesperson told Sky News yesterday’s incident happened outside the store and was therefore a police matter, but added: “At Harrods we have significant measures in place to ensure the absolute health and safety of our colleagues and customers inside the store.

“This includes the mandatory wearing of face coverings at all times, strict capacity limits and restrictions on groups of more than six entering, with under-18s always accompanied by an adult.

“Our security and retail teams implement these policies at entrances throughout the store.”

In nearby Regent Street, shoppers were out in big numbers to make the most of the first Saturday since non-essential shops were allowed to reopen in England.

According to figures from retail analyst ShopperTrak, overall High Street footfall was down 29% on what it was on the same weekend in 2019.

Numbers were up 193% on the previous weekend, when only essential stores were open, but COVID-19 restrictions appear to have deterred people from making their usual Christmas shopping trips in person.

Andy Sumpter, of ShopperTrak, said shops are still hoping to cash in on “pent-up demand” from lockdown, which will culminate on 19 December – described by some as the ‘Super Saturday’ before Christmas.

He said: “Instilling confidence in physical shopping journeys and reassuring consumers that stores are safe will be the cornerstone to ensuring shoppers keep returning, not just to support shops, but also their local communities that rely on the high street.”