Locals visiting a small pub on the Isles of Scilly last night were savouring their drinks after finding themselves in one of only a handful or so left open in the entire country.
The island’s 2,000-strong population remain under England’s most lenient coronavirus controls, with all other regions now in either tiers three or four – where hospitality venues will either be forced to close completely or be limited to serving takeaway pints.
Although a number of the island’s dozen or so pubs have already shut, it is now the only place in England where you can still sit down and have a beer after the latest announcement plunged millions more people into the harshest restrictions.
Photos taken hours after the news show customers at pubs including the Mermaid Inn enjoying their drinks. Punters adhered to the ‘rule of six’ and remaining seated while a lone masked barmaid pulled pints behind the empty bar ready to be walked over to their tables.
But despite having more options than most this New Year’s Eve, locals have begged people not to flock to the island to escape lockdown.
Jonathan Smith, a councillor for St Martin’s who also runs a small organic fruit and vegetable farm, said ‘it’s an interesting paradox that Scilly remains the only place left in tier one’ because ‘we are probably the place in the country for fewest options for travel, shopping and eating out in the winter months’.
Linda Thomas, a 69-year-old librarian from St Mary’s, said the news is ‘no time for jubilation’ as residents worry about their relatives on the mainland and the risk of the virus coming to the isles – which has only one small hospital and a high elderly population.
She said: ‘Having seen our family and friends in Cornwall go from a tier one to a tier three in under a week because of mindless selfish people from higher tiers travelling down is very disturbing.
‘We know that some of these people were heading to the islands and I have no doubt that some made it.’
Another islander, Barbara Simpson, 78, added: ‘Those who freely admit they have come to Scilly to get away from the virus obviously have no idea (or don’t care) of the risk they pose to us.
‘The total lack of awareness and arrogance of these people is staggering.’
Both women said they would not be visiting a pub or restaurant for New Year’s Eve on the island even though they will be open, with the rule of six and table service in place.
The Council of the Isles of Scilly urged islanders to stay local for their New Year’s Eve celebrations.
It said: ‘Please consider whether the risk of spreading the virus on a single night out is worth jeopardising the massive effort made to keep our community and services safe so far this year.
‘As we have previously advised, just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should, so please consider the Prime Minister’s advice to ‘see in the new year safely at home.’
‘We strongly urge anyone planning to travel to the islands against this advice to reconsider, in light of what bringing the virus to the islands could mean for our community, particularly at this time of year.’
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