A second lockdown

A pause on non-essential retail in England will see High Street footfall dwindle but the continuation of routine appointments is an important consolation

woman in quarantine

Waking up each morning in a world transformed by COVID-19 can feel a little bit like ground hog day.

For many people, the social occasions that break up the daily routine have been put on pause as the Government attempts to stem the spread of the virus.

Rather than choosing an exciting holiday destination, efforts to add variety to life take on humbler forms such as experimenting with a new recipe or taking a different route through the park.

Amid a lifestyle characterised by repetition, how closely will the second lockdown in England follow the patterns set during the initial lockdown in March?

For optometrists, there is an important difference with the confirmation that practices can remain open to provide prioritised routine care alongside urgent and essential care.

There is still plenty of work to be done, with many optometrists booked up for weeks in advance as they get through a backlog of routine appointments that were delayed during the first lockdown.

A challenge for the profession is making patients aware that optometrists are still on hand to provide help – even as other High Street shops close their doors and footfall dwindles.

The AOP has worked to raise awareness of the services that continue to be offered by optometry practices over the November lockdown. A press release highlighting that optometrists remain open for routine sight tests was picked up by national media outlets.

Ryan Leighton, chief executive of Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care, told OT this week that he expected the demand for routine eye care to reduce slightly during the November lockdown, although patients with clinical need will still want to be seen.

“We are hopeful that from a commercial perspective the outcome will be fairly stable against last year's performance,” he shared.

Several practices spoken to by OT shared their sense of sadness for neighbouring businesses that have been forced to close after investing significant amounts of money in becoming COVID secure.

This goes to show that High Streets are not just about individual retailers but about a collective that works together to serve the community around them.

Anthony Josephson, who owns Maskell & Josephson Optometrists in Altrincham and Warrington, highlighted that a High Street is only as good as the businesses that trade there.

“With every lost business and vacant unit, a little bit of the soul that makes the town up dies,” he said.

We explore the future of the High Street in the upcoming edition – landing in letterboxes in mid-December.

As always, please feel free to get in touch and let us know how your practice has been affected.