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Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

'Scary when it's on your doorstep': fear of coronavirus grips Brighton

The council says it is using ‘robust infection control measures’ after fifth case diagnosed
Coronavirus fears gripped Brighton on Monday as the number of people in the city diagnosed with the disease rose to five.

Outside County Oak medical centre, which was closed after a member of staff contracted the virus, a number of local residents spoke of their concerns.

“It’s scary when you look in the windows and see the people in the hazmat suits,” said 23-year-old Ben Swan, a local dog walker. “You hear about it on the news and it sounds like it’s in China, like it’s really far away, but it gets quite scary when it’s round the corner on your doorstep.”

He said he and his partner luckily had not visited the practice in a few months, but that the risk of catching coronavirus ran through his mind when he was travelling around the area.

Melanie Roberts, 48, saw the centre was closed from her house just across the road.

“It’s worrying that it’s so close. My family are fairly young and healthy so hopefully we’ll be OK but it’s worrying for older people, especially if it’s been in a medical centre where people have been in and out who aren’t well – that’s a bit of a problem isn’t it?” said Roberts, a dressmaker with two young children.

“I think people will take more precautions now ... I think it will have an effect on people now in social situations, in pubs and shops and things. Maybe not a week or two ago, but now I think it will affect people quite quickly.”

The third case of coronavirus in the UK was diagnosed in Brighton last Thursday, and the man has since been transferred to St Thomas’ hospital in London for treatment.

Over the weekend the number of UK cases doubled as four more people were diagnosed in Brighton – three men and one woman, all of whom had been in contact with the previously confirmed Brighton case.

However in many parts of Brighton, residents remained unconcerned by the latest developments.

In Hove, the Grenadier pub remains open after a man who was diagnosed with coronavirus was served there a few days ago.

There were about a dozen customers watching football and enjoying a pint on Monday afternoon. Although all staff who were on duty at the time the man was hosted had been told to isolate themselves, there were still plenty of workers behind the bar.

The pub’s spokesperson said: “We are following the advice and working closely with Public Health England who have advised us that there is minimal ongoing risk of infection to either guests or staff, and as such the pub remains open for business as usual.”

At Brighton train station, travellers also seemed unperturbed, despite the giant billboard displaying headlines about the Brighton “super-spreader” – a term used to describe the man who contracted the disease in Singapore and had since passed it on to a number of other persons.

John Stephen, 68, a retired magazine journalist said he was not bothered by the situation, but knew many others were. “There’s a Chinese supermarket down there and I saw some girls walking past covering their faces – it seems to bother other people, but I think a lot of it is racism.”

There were a couple of people wearing protective face masks, but the vast majority around the station were not taking any visible extra precautions.

“I’m not perturbed but I am a little concerned about the racism surrounding it,” Stephen added.

Brighton and Hove city council said it was working closely with Public Health England (PHE) to respond to the situation.

A council statement said: “The latest patients from our city have been transferred to specialist NHS centres, and healthcare workers are using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus.”

It said PHE was prioritising speaking to those with close and sustained contact with confirmed cases.
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