Cambridge Market set to reopen on Monday
Following a robust debate, Cambridge Market will reopen on Monday (January 18), with a “a reduced number of stalls focusing on the essentials, particularly food” – though details are still not available as the arrangements are due to be discussed with traders.
Councillors today confirmed that plans are almost complete for the reopening the market, which was closed on January 1 following advice from the director of public health at Cambridgeshire County Council about the increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 in overcrowded outdoor spaces. The closure – the first-ever – saw petitions attract more than 8,000 signatures for an immediate reopening.
“There will unavoidably be a reduced number of stalls focusing on the essentials, particularly food,” said a city council statement. “Plans are being finalised this week, once the risk assessment and the new Covid safety measures have been signed off, giving traders have a few days for mobilisation and reopening.
“The plan is for the market to reopen next Monday morning, on a quieter day rather than risk drawing big crowds at the weekend.”
Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for the city centre including responsibility for the running of the market, explained that the new layout and risk assessment will now be discussed with the public health team, and then all stallholders, about how the market can reopen safely after the closure circuit breaker.
She said: “Everyone in Cambridge will be glad to see the market reopen next Monday. It’s the heart of our city centre providing a living for traders as well as good food for Cambridge residents, local shopping rather than previous draw for people from way beyond the city.
“The first question we asked when a temporary closure was recommended was – when can we reopen and what do we need to put in place to make that happen as soon as possible? Re-opening the market safely and successfully takes careful planning, and reducing the number of stalls requires consultation. That means we’ve prepared the fairest way of allocating pitches.”
However just yesterday (January 11) – the day chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a national newspaper that outdoor markets could also be a serious virus transmission risk if not replanned – the council was ambivalent about setting a schedule for the reopening.
Prof Whitty said: “If people for example are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they’re really huddled together round a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus”.
Today, Cllr Herbert commented: “Keeping Cambridge safe is and has to be our priority. Infection rates have sadly been rising rapidly in Cambridge since Christmas because the new variant of coronavirus is over 50 per cent more transmissible. We’ve listened to people’s concerns and known since last March how important the market is to them. But we also need to prevent a repetition of the dangerous overcrowding we were seeing in the market square.
“Lots of people feel safer shopping outdoors, but it isn’t risk-free. Just yesterday, the chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a national newspaper: ‘If people for example are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they’re really huddled together round a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus’.”
“He also recommended wearing masks in busier outdoor spaces, which is something we encourage people to do.
“We will work closely with traders on a safe reopening plan, as we have done since last March through some really testing times. We will work with them to make next week’s reopening successful, and then beyond that on a fuller reopening plan for when lockdown eventually ends, which doesn’t look like being for a while yet.”