Column: Fears and hopes for the year ahead in Sheffield

We begin the New Year with a mix of fears and hopes.

The fears are about what disrupted all our lives last year – coronavirus.

The hopes are the opposite – the longing for a return to something like normal life.

Of course, a successful vaccination programme will eventually change everything, just as the virus changed everything in the first place.

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In the meantime fears and hopes jostle inside each of us. I see this in the calls and emails that come in to my office.

Increasingly people who work in the retail sector are getting in touch to report breaches of the law in their shops and shopping centres. When they do, it is with a mix of despair at people’s selfishness combined with anxiety for their own safety.

One shop worker said, ‘Don’t people realise that wearing masks in Meadowhall is for all our sakes?’

A retailer at the Drakehouse Retail Park said he had come across people who had travelled from a Tier 4 area, where shops are closed, disregarding government guidance and potentially bringing the virus with them.

When people email or call me it is to ask for more police action. I pass on the details in the knowledge that the police will do everything they can to ensure the law is obeyed.

When the first lock-down happened, police were asked by government to give those who were not obeying the law the benefit of the doubt.

After all, we were all getting used to something strange and new.

The police engaged with people, persuading them to comply, and enforcement was a last resort. That was then, but now it is different. Now, there is no excuse.

We know full well that we must wear face masks in shops and practice social distancing. The emphasis has changed and more fines are being issued as a result. But the police cannot be everywhere.

We all need to play our part, not least for the sake of those retailers who are really anxious about their own safety and that of their loved ones.

The hope for 2021 of a vaccinated population is still many months away.

Until then we need to keep our resolve and help our shopworkers.