After the controversial shutdown of Cambridge’s popular market, traders in other parts of the county are open for business this morning.
Ely Market – just over 15 miles from Cambridge – opened for “essential shopping” at 8.30am today (January 2).
It comes after strong backlash to the decision to indefinitely shut down Cambridge’s market due to fears over rising coronavirus cases in the city.
Cambridge’s weekly Covid-19 infection rate per 100,000 residents – 333.3 – is higher than that for Ely, which falls under East Cambridgeshire district with a rate of 278.3.
The average rate for Cambridgeshire is 285.8, while for England it is 426.5.
‘Unfair and ridiculous’
The closure of Cambridge market – which came into effect from yesterday (January 1) – has been harshly criticised by traders and residents.
Roberto Sanna, who runs Roberto’s Deli, slammed the decision as “unfair and ridiculous”.
“They’re not thinking about us. This is the only way we can make a living. They took this decision so immaturely and unprofessionally,” he said.
A marketplace fishmonger said the decision “doesn’t make much sense”.
“It’s not the best news. Not after we managed for nine months during all this,” said Leigh Humphries of Crystal Water.
Cllr Rosy Moore at Cambridge City Council defended the move, saying “we haven’t taken this decision lightly”.
She cited the need to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our public health partners are clear that while outdoor spaces are generally safer than indoor spaces, crowded outdoor locations, where people can’t socially distance, also help the virus to spread,” she said.
Ely market to sell essential items only
As with Cambridge, Ely falls under Tier 4 coronavirus rules, meaning the city’s market will only sell essential items.
According to the Ely Market website, this will include fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread and other produce, plus takeaway food and drinks.
“Please follow social distancing rules during your visit and ensure you leave the Market Place as soon as you have completed your shopping,” a message on the website says.
The market is also open every Thursday and Sunday, as well as during bi-monthly farmers’ markets and regular mini markets.
It is understood that markets in other Cambridgeshire towns, including St Ives and Huntingdon, will also be open this month.
In Cambridge, it has been warned that shutting down the market may increase dangers by driving more people into indoor shops.
Cllr Josh Matthews, Liberal Democrat spokesperson in Cambridge, said the decision had left him feeling “confused and uncomfortable”.
“It’s good the council is being vigilant about the risks of transmitting the virus, but the decision they have made in this instance leaves me and Market ward’s councillors somewhat confused and uncomfortable,” he said.
“Businesses selling the same goods can continue if they operate within shops, which runs counter to the greater risks of being inside versus in the open air.”
Council promises support for traders
Cambridge City Council has stood by its decision and said that market traders will receive support during the closure.
“Tier 4 includes a stay at home order but what we are seeing in the city centre is a lot of people coming out not just for essential shopping, but to visit the city, buy takeaway food, and mingle in crowded spaces,” said Cllr Rosy Moore.
“We need to ensure people can maintain a safe two-metre distance from one another and when the market square is busy that is not possible.
“We are aware that this is very difficult for market traders who rely on their stalls for their livelihood.
“We will work with them to offer support and we will reopen the market as soon as we are confident that it is safe to do so.”