Cambridge Market temporarily shuts to keep people from ‘congregating’ in city centre

The closure starts from 1st January and the decision to reopen will be kept under review

Cambridge Market will be closed from today (January 1st) on a temporary basis due to rising concerns about coronavirus.

This decision was made by Cambridge City Council in an attempt to keep people from congregating in the city centre. A press release on the council’s website said that: “in spite of Tier 4 stay at home regulations, large crowds of people were seen gathering in and around market square and also congregating in nearby areas such as King’s Parade.”

Cllr Rosy Moore is the Executive Councillor for Cambridge change, and spoke out about the council’s decision: “We haven’t taken this decision lightly but it is clear that we have a rapidly rising rate of coronavirus cases in Cambridge, especially in working-age adults and children, and we need people to act now to keep themselves and keep their loved ones safe.

“Tier 4 includes a stay at home order but what we are seeing in the city centre is a lot of people coming out not just for essential shopping, but to visit the city, buy takeaway food, and mingle in crowded spaces. Our public health partners are clear that while outdoor spaces are generally safer than indoor spaces, crowded outdoor locations, where people can’t socially distance, also help the virus to spread.”

This comes after news that Cambridge and Cambridgeshire was to enter Tier 4 regulations on Boxing Day. Covid cases have been on a continued rise, with 537 new cases announced on 29th December. The total number of positive cases since the outbreak of the virus stands at 19,000.

The Cambridge Liberal Democrats openly criticised the council’s decision on Twitter, arguing that “while it’s good the council is being vigilant about the risks of Covid, we question this plan to close the market. It unfairly targets market traders when other takeaway and essential goods businesses can operate and will drive more people into indoor shops.”

Cllr Tim Bick, Liberal Democrat leader on Cambridge City Council, even tweeted out a picture of the Market on New Year’s Eve, claiming that the queues outside M&S food hall were the location of the “worst social distancing” and that coincidentally the indoor food vendor would be the “beneficiary” of the Market closure.

Market Square has been the home of local vendors for centuries, with traders selling fresh goods in the city centre since the Middle Ages. Now, all traders are being asked to shut up their stalls. The council have not issued a definite duration for the closure, telling Cambridge residents that the decision will be “kept under review”.

A few vendors have expressed concerns and disappointment about this decision. Leigh Humphries from Crystal Water fishmongers told Cambridgeshire Live that “[i]t’s not the best news. Not after we managed nine months during all this fine. The whole time since March we’ve managed to keep people fed and so it doesn’t make much sense to shut a fresh food outlet when it means pushing people to indoor supermarkets, where they’re already busy.”

Val Thomas, deputy director of public health at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Cases of the virus are spreading rapidly through Cambridge with increased incidence in people of working age and outbreaks in a range of settings. This means it is really important that we act to keep people’s contact with anyone outside their household/support bubble to the absolute minimum.”

Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge Liberal Democrats have been contacted for further comment. 

Feature image credit: Geograph via Creative Commons Licence