Monday, 30 Nov 2020

Village in turmoil as one half can meet in pub while the other cannot

A tiny village has been divided in two by the new coronavirus rules – with half of residents able to meet each other in the pub while the other half can’t. 

Rural Bures straddles the Suffolk and Essex border, meaning some of its 1,400 residents live in a ‘high risk’ infection zone while the others are still in the ‘medium tier’.

All those who live in Essex are banned from household mixing indoors, meaning they can only go to pubs and restaurants with people they live with. 

Suffolk residents meanwhile can still meet up to six people inside pubs and restaurants. 

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The divide also splits the village’s two pubs – The Eight Bells and Three Horseshoes – which are only 350 yards apart but now operate under different rules.

Landlords say the regulations are spreading confusion and they don’t know if they are expected to check people’s papers as they try to come through the door. 

Willy Amos, 83, landlord of The Eight Bells in Essex says trade has dropped dramatically due to the pandemic and he fears what will happen to his pub after it was moved into the high tier.

The great-grandad said: ‘It is down two thirds. Before this happened we would have had 30 people in the two bars, now we can only have 10.

‘I’ve never known anything like this in my 40 years running the pub. It is a bit confusing, they can come over here and we can’t go over to there – it’s a tale of two villages.

‘We have only really had one day of it, we don’t have a clue what is going to happen, it certainly is not going to help.’

Across the border in the Three Horseshoes, Essex residents are not allowed to meet up with friends who live in Suffolk.

But landlady Pat Mulcahy, 71, says she won’t act as a border guard and check drinkers’ passports before serving them.

She said: ‘I suppose there’s a temptation to mix but a long as my rules are followed its up to the individual really. It is not my job to check passports, it is hard enough as it is.

‘When we reopened things were good as everyone was in the garden and my trade increased. Now we have colder weather and the 10 o’clock curfew.

‘This is the toughest it has been in the 25 years I have been here, it is just a nightmare for everyone and it doesn’t end.’

The split came into force at midnight on Saturday after officials at Essex County Council lobbied to be moved from the medium to high tiers – despite not meeting the infection threshold.

Neighbouring Suffolk County Council has made no approach to government and at present will remain medium due to its low rates.

Defending the move Leader of Essex County Council, councillor David Finch, said: ‘We think the government has decided correctly and been guided by the science. The fact is that the number of cases in Essex is rising exponentially.

‘We understand that the move to the high Covid alert level may affect people’s lives and businesses and we understand the very strong feelings about this.

‘However, we have a duty of care to the people of Essex, and we firmly believe that this is the best route to minimise disruptions, to save lives – not just for those with the virus, but for other patients as well – and to protect businesses.’

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