‘Breakthrough moment’ as St Helier buzzes again

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David Warr, who runs coffee merchants Cooper and Co, added that there was a ‘buzz’ among local traders who were getting ready for the return of office workers to St Helier.

In the latest phase of the easing of pandemic restrictions, working-from-home guidance was lifted as part of the fifth stage of the government’s Covid reconnection roadmap.

This stage also saw the two-metre physical distancing laws replaced with guidance, and 20 people can now attend informal gatherings in homes or public places.

Meanwhile, St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has confirmed that permission has been granted to run ‘small-scale’ events in Broad Street – which is currently closed to traffic – in a further attempt to encourage people into town.

Mr Warr said: ‘Everybody is getting prepped and there is a renewed energy which is great.

‘It shows that town needed this reboot. This feels like a breakthrough moment and I do hope that the momentum continues – of course it always helps when the sun is out. It is welcome news and with the injections [vaccinations] carrying on as they are, things do seem to be heading in the right direction.’

He added: ‘I do think we should keep being careful but hopefully things can pick up at a quicker pace.’

Gino Risoli, who manages La Petite Baguette café, said the effects of the guidance being lifted were already becoming apparent.

‘It’s made a marginal difference – even on the first day,’ he said. ‘I expect to see that develop over the course of a month.’

Gino Risoli. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30633291)

However, he said he was unsure whether town would return to ‘normal’ trading levels as he believed some Islanders would continue to work from home or adopt flexible working schedules.

Operations director for the parish of St Helier Andrew Sugden said that workers returning to the office was ‘good news’ for the town economy.

When asked whether he expected the town centre to see a boost in trading within the coming weeks, he said: ‘Yes, of course – it’s a gradual return to normality for the town centre and the traders.’

He added: ‘There’s been a massive behind-the-scenes effort to help get trading conditions back to normal.’

The footfall average across every week in March was 91,478 – which compares to 155,655 for the same month in 2019.

However, Mr Crowcroft said that he did believe that town could eventually return to its previous trading levels.

‘I think that there have been a number of sides to this problem – working from home has not been for everyone,’ he said. ‘Retail businesses – hospitality in particular – do rely on the trade of office workers. It’s certainly an important part of it.

‘Despite the pressures and uncertainty caused by the pandemic we are seeing investment in local business and retail.’

He added that returning to the office would help Islanders to fit ‘a trip to town’ into their daily schedule, which might not have been possible while working from home.

He also said that attractions such as street theatre and musical performances could be brought back to help ‘reanimate’ the town centre and encourage more Islanders to return to the high street.

‘It’s always appreciated by people in town and it is another reason for being in town,’ he added.

There are currently three known actives cases of Covid in the Island and it has been two weeks since a community-based case was identified. The news cases have been detected among those arriving in the Island.

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