Thursday, 21 Jan 2021

COVID-19: The harbour town with no registered coronavirus cases finds itself in Tier 2

This is the first time since the lockdowns began – eight long months ago – that we’ve filmed somewhere that’s still completely untouched by COVID-19.

In the harbour town of West Bay, the 13,000 residents have managed to not register a single case of coronavirus.

A miracle, good prevention, geography or luck? Probably a mix.

The small town lies in the far west of Dorset – a county which has a rate of around 65 cases per 100,000 and decreasing.

But despite its clean record, this tourist hotspot is preparing to emerge from lockdown not in Tier 1, as many locals had expected – but in the tougher Tier 2.

“Over the months, all of us have been second guessing what was going to happen and I think all of us without exception were convinced we’d be Tier 1,” said Richard Cooper, owner of the Rise restaurant.

Christmas bookings of mixed households will now have to be cancelled.

“We feel very disappointed that this seems to be a very broad brush approach which doesn’t really suit our particular location. We are going to struggle,” he added.

Richard’s frustration was echoed around the harbourside.

One pub landlord was too angry to speak to us, angry that they won’t get the bumper Christmas drinking trade they’d hoped for.

Another lady, who didn’t want to be named, wasn’t happy.

She said: “Angry. I’m angry. Will it change before Christmas? Have we got to try hard for two weeks? I don’t know. How can we try harder? We don’t go anywhere apart from here, walking round the harbour.”

We walk past the boats and find fisherman John Worswick unloading his catch of sole.

He’s lived in the area for 20 years.

“I think we’ve been lumped in with maybe Bournemouth and Poole, and I suppose that’s the only big area here with any sort of cases.

“But to be fair without it you’ve got people who’ll travel, so if it was open here maybe you’d get people from elsewhere – I don’t know – I wouldn’t like to have to make the decision!”

Tier 2 areas like West Bay will be hoping that at the first review on 16 December the area will move down.

As John continued gutting his fish, he had a pearl of perspective on the town’s situation.

“Obviously it is frustrating yeah, but to be fair, if my only problem is not going to the pub I’m a lucky man compared to a lot of people,” he said.

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