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THIS week marks the lifting of most legal restrictions on social contact – but Melksham residents and businesses say that they will remain cautious, continuing to use face masks and social distancing.
Nicknamed ‘Freedom Day’, Monday 19th July saw the end of a number of restrictions, including limits on the number of people that can meet; the legal requirement to wear face masks; and the removal of guidance for people to keep at least one-metre apart.
However, the government has advised that everyone remain cautious as restrictions are lifted and follow a number of recommended safety measures, including wearing face masks in crowded and enclosed spaces; meeting outdoors where possible; and limiting the close contact with people outside your household.
Wiltshire Council has also asked people to continue to be cautious and still do what they can to keep each other safe.
And some Melksham residents, businesses and services agree.
“I am double vaccinated, testing regularly and am hopeful that our wonderful NHS can manage better than before; however, I still feel safer wearing a face covering and sanitising regularly,” said local resident Beth Dark.
“Although I am all jabbed up, I will continue to wear a mask indoors, on public transportation and in close proximity to others outside. It’s not for me, but the protection of others,” said Lisa Ellis.
“I will certainly wear my mask in indoor places where there are people,” added Pat Hall. “We have to be careful, it’s not over yet. Even though we have restrictions removed it is still out there and getting stronger every day.”
Tops Hair Salon & Beauty has said that its staff will continue to wear masks, and that they will be asking clients to do the same in a bid to make everyone feel safe and comfortable.
They said, “We work in a close contact profession and as some members of our team are yet to receive both doses of the vaccine, we believe this is the most appropriate course of action to keep everyone safe. This will continue until we feel comfortable to be in such close contact unmasked.”
And Melksham Library, which has lifted the limit on how long someone can browse in the library, has also said that its staff and volunteers will continue to wear face masks.
“We encourage you to wear a face covering (unless you are exempt) when visiting the library to protect yourself and those who may be more vulnerable to risk of infection,” they said. “We also request that you maintain at least a one metre social distance from other customers, staff and volunteers.”
There’s also no change for Melksham’s GP surgeries – restrictions will remain the same as they were before “Freedom Day’, with staff and patients expected to observe social distancing measures, including wearing a face mask and staying at least one-metre apart.
“We are acting very cautiously and are maintaining social distancing, face coverings, and PPE for healthcare staff,” said Melksham’s three GP practices – Bradford on Avon & Melksham Health Partnership, Giffords Surgery and Spa Medical Practice.
“The delta variant is more transmissible and patients may come to the surgery when they are contagious.
“It is our duty to do all we can to keep both our patients and staff safe whilst we deliver our care.”
However, the lifting of restrictions meant that some local groups were able to ‘cautiously’ meet for the first time this year.
Residents of Giffords Court – the privately-owned apartment development for independently retired living – were able to meet for the first time in their communal area since the pandemic began
“It’s fabulous to be back,” said residents speaking to Melksham News. “It’s been so strange having everyone staying in their apartments following the rules.
“And for those of us that live alone it’s great, as we can sit and have a coffee and chat to people, rather than stay in our apartments.
“It will take time for everyone to get used to the ‘new normal’, but we are taking things slowly and being cautious. We might all be double-jabbed, but we still have hand sanitiser, wear face masks when we want to, and are keeping things clean.”
The Giffords Court social club, led by chairman Eric Gill, are now looking forward to putting on events in the future to “restore the community wellbeing” after the lockdown restrictions.
And Melksham Seniors met for the second time since the pandemic lockdown began in March last year, meeting at the Assembly Hall for a film screening.
“Thank God, it’s been so long” said Rosemary Bellinger from Bowerhill. “But I will still wear my face mask – I won’t go anywhere without it – especially in the shops and on the bus.”
“I’m very pleased that the Seniors is back,” said Deirdre Willoughby. “I see lots of faces I recognise – and after so long, it’s a relief to go somewhere and see people! But I will continue to play it by ear and stay safe – wearing a face mask.”
Picture: Melksham Seniors celebrate their first meeting of 2021 at the Assembly Hall.