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Councillor angered by 'lack of action' to fight coronavirus in Norfolk having returned from Spain

Having been in isolation in Spain for a week, a Swaffham councillor has been left "horrified" by the comparative attitude to the coronavirus in the UK.

Graham Edwards, a Residents4Residents town councillor, said he has questioned his decision to return to Norfolk having managed to find the last flights out of Spain last Friday (March 20).

"I do wonder if we have done the right thing coming home having seen what I have," Mr Edwards said.

This picture was sent in by Graham Edwards showing how empty the streets were in Spain last week(32301810)
This picture was sent in by Graham Edwards showing how empty the streets were in Spain last week(32301810)

Following the Government's announcement on Monday night instructing the public to only leave home for stringent purposes, Mr Edwards was "horrified" to see people "milling around" Swaffham's Market Place earlier today (Tuesday).

He told the Lynn News that he feels the country is in trouble if it continues at this rate when comparing everyday life to what he saw in Spain.

Commenting on the situation abroad, Mr Edwards said: "The police frequently stop cars with more than one person in the car and demand an explanation as to why this is. There were police checks on the motorway to the airport, checking cars and occupants.

Swaffham town councillor says there have been too many people wandering the streets of Swaffham recently
Swaffham town councillor says there have been too many people wandering the streets of Swaffham recently

"People seen walking in the street again have to explain themselves if questioned. People are not on the streets anyway, they are deserted.

"I think we are in serious trouble in this country especially when we are taking this matter so lightly. The Spanish rate grows daily despite such hard controls, yet we are doing little of them and the graph of the growth of the problem here grows faster than any country except the USA."

Having arrived in Spain on March 12, the country was swiftly placed on lockdown as coronavirus deaths increased.

Mr Edwards continued: "When the lockdown began and flight problems were announced, we felt we should return but we saw the flights were full up to last Wednesday (March 18), and on Thursday they were £200 plus. But weirdly on Friday they were £37 so we booked two.

"We were lucky because our Friday (March 20) flight was the very last for the foreseeable future. Our flights this Thursday (March 24) have been cancelled."

But he said he has been concerned with what he saw over the weekend in local supermarkets with trolleys being stacked up next to each other.

Mr Edwards explained: "As one person leaves a trolley it is returned to the stack. They do not seem to be sterilised between use, so if I had the virus and left traces on the trolley, the next user could simply pick up that virus. There is no control on the trolleys."

Swaffham Town Council's office is closed for face-to-face contact until further notice, while the council has today also announced the Saturday markets will be suspended for the foreseeable future.

Mr Edwards said this should have been done earlier.

"We do not need the market right now," Mr Edwards said. "Mr Johnson made an immensely powerful plea to stay at home.

"I just (Tuesday afternoon) drove through Swaffham Market Place and you would not know anything has changed. There are people everywhere, milling around as if the shops were open, all types of people.

"You could not make this up, it's heaving in the Market Place."

However, Mr Edwards did contact the Lynn News shortly before 4pm to say people seem to be "at last" getting the message.

He said: "There are shops selling plants and some food but other than that Swaffham was quieter than earlier [today]. In fact, very quiet compared to normal, at last!"

Swaffham's Conservative Breckland and county councillor Ed Colman said the market had been busy on Saturday.

Mr Colman added: "It's a difficult one to judge. People have got to take responsibility for their own actions. It is pretty clear and obvious this is a serious matter and we should all be following the advice.

"I am incredibly proud to represent Swaffham at the moment as there are so many people going above and beyond for each other.

"As a market town, I do not think there is one that has done more. I am proud that the town has led the way and not been told to do it. People have gone out and done it themselves."

And Independent town councillor Brendan Holmes told the Lynn News he believes the public are starting to get the message in what is "an ever evolving situation."

He said: "It does now appear that people are to an extent taking it more seriously since yesterday's announcement."

Swaffham Town Council's extraordinary meeting which was scheduled for Monday evening was cancelled.

The council has also announced the VE Day 75 celebrations in May are off.

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