‘It’s a race against time’
Plus, the rest of your weekly briefing
Good afternoon and welcome to this, our last Tribune weekly briefing of the year.
Today we take a look at the Covid situation locally as the Omicron variant looks like scuppering our hopes of a more normal Christmas. We also feature an interesting piece about Robin Hood’s links to Sheffield and recommend a few things you can do over the next week from the comfort of your own home.
Last week we sent two stories to our over 500 paying members: the first about the culture clash experienced by Chinese students in Sheffield and the second about efforts to install natural flood defences in the hills above the city. An extract from that second piece is below:
From high up the sun shines off the reservoir so brightly it’s sometimes blinding to look at. At other times it turns into a perfect mirror of the blue skies and clouds above. From the highest points on our walk we can see Dale Dike and Strines reservoirs further up the valley. The tiny outline of Boot’s Folly is just about visible through the haze in the far distance.
Our plans: With Christmas and New Year coming soon our publishing schedule will change a bit over the next fortnight. We’ll publish another members-only story on Wednesday about what it’s like to be a fast food courier in Sheffield. We’ll then publish a festive weekend read on Boxing Day followed by a round-up of the year on Thursday, December 30. We’ll then have another weekend read on January 2 and be back to our normal schedule on January 5.
Give a gift: If you’re still struggling for a last-minute present, why not consider a gift that requires no in-person shopping, emits no carbon and supports the renaissance of high-quality journalism in the North. And if you gift a Tribune membership, we will give you a second one for free. All you need to do is buy a gift and then send us the email address of the second person you want to gift a membership to (use the email email@example.com).
This week’s weather
Monday 🌫 a repeat performance of the weekend with high pressure, elongated across the UK and up towards Greenland at this point, influencing with mist and fog stubborn to lift in many places and a frost to start. That being said, there's perhaps a slightly better chance of it lifting to brighter spells around early afternoon. Highs of 5°C.
Tuesday ☁️ a cold start with a widespread light frost expected. Once again, cloud amounts will be rather extensive but brighter spells could well develop at times, moreso than the weekend. It'll be dry (barring the odd drizzly patch) and settled once more with calm winds and chilly conditions throughout. A widespread frost forms once more with icy patches on untreated surfaces. Highs of 4°C.
Wednesday ⛅️ I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna get the sunshine symbol out for midweek! That being said, cloud may well increase from the west later in the day, but more likely after dark. A cold day as temperatures struggle to get much above freezing with sharp frosts early and late. Dry with bright spells once early mist and fog patches clear. Highs of just 2-3°C.
Thursday ☂️❄️ this is when the uncertainty ramps up as our high pressure loses influence and becomes a robust blocking feature across Greenland. Low pressure to the south-west threatens weather fronts that will likely bring rain, potentially preceded by hill snow, north and east. How far these fronts get, and how potent they'll be, is rather up in the air! Highs of 4°C.
Friday ☁️ unsettled and breezier as low pressure continues to try and nudge in from the west. Rather cloudy throughout with the risk of rain, especially later in the day. A touch milder as the battleground between cold and mild notches up a gear. Highs of 6°C.
The big story: Covid-19 case rates are now shooting up
Top line: Covid-19 case rates have been very stable in Sheffield since August — now they are starting to rise pretty fast.
The numbers: The latest case rate is 476.6, which is 1,026 cases or 57.6% up on the previous week, and it’s clearly going to rise much higher in the days ahead. But it’s still much lower than the rate across England, which currently stands at 736.4, up just under 50% in a week.
What about hospitals? The big question is how these higher rates, which are driven by the Omicron variant (plus increased testing) are going to translate into hospital admissions. Given how recently rates started rising, it’s probably too early to answer that question.
So far, we haven’t seen any increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions in Sheffield. Indeed the latest figures show the number of patients falling from 88 to 71 between December 7 and 14. Three deaths linked to the virus have taken place in the city in the last week.
Booster programme: Healthcare systems across the country have been in a race against time to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Sheffield CCG set themselves a target of 30,000 booster vaccinations over the weekend, which would have been around double the rate that they were managing before.
Patchy coverage: However, as with the first and second vaccine doses, coverage is patchy and uneven across the city, with better off parts of Sheffield having far higher coverage than more deprived areas.
Up until December 12, the area with the highest coverage was Fulwood and Lodge Moor where 65% have had their third vaccine.
Outside the city centre, the area with the lowest was Highfield and Lowfield where just 10% of residents have had the booster jab.
Business support: There is still no word from the Chancellor about help for businesses that are facing a second ruined Christmas season — but this time with no government support.
On Friday, often one of the busiest nights of the year for hospitality, many pubs and restaurants in Sheffield were deserted.
Over the weekend, Vittles cafe in Broomhill reported a huge 45% drop in sales on Saturday followed by a 37% drop on Sunday.
Reaction: Influential voices in Sheffield such as MPs Paul Blomfield and Clive Betts have called on the government to act to support businesses. Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Mr Betts said:
I will quite simply say to the minister unless he acts today to help hospitality businesses, they won’t be there next year to be helped. That’s the simple reality.
Another lockdown? After a cabinet meeting today, The Times reports that “Boris Johnson is unlikely to impose further coronavirus restrictions before Christmas after delaying a decision today”. The paper’s political editor tweeted this afternoon: “The more likely scenario — as disclosed by The Times at the weekend — is a two-week circuit breaker after Christmas. The 28th has been pencilled in by officials as the starting point for the new curbs”.
Home of the week
We love this one-bedroomed town house in Kelham Island which boasts an array of eco features and a high-spec internal finish. It is on the market for £220,000.
Our favourite reads
An interesting read in The Star about yet another large development in Kelham Island. A set of old industrial buildings and warehouses at 180 Shalesmoor has now been sold for more flats, but the rapid pace of change has led some to lament the decline of traditional manufacturing in the area.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that The Tribune has no plans to go to the new Glory Holes adults-only crazy golf venue in High Street. But one person who has been brave enough is Alex Groves from Yorkshire Live. His three-star review of the bar describes it as “underwhelming”.
A nice story in the Yorkshire Post about a new book which details legendary outlaw Robin Hood’s links to Sheffield. The book is the culmination of a project which has already seen an outdoor film screening and the release of an app marking key historical spots around the region.
City photographer supports local
Sheffield is blessed with lots of great photographers and Joe Horner is another one to follow on Twitter or Instagram if you can. His latest (above) are for a commission for Welcome to Sheffield on shopping local this Christmas.
Things to do
Watch: In Sophie Atkinson’s brilliant recent piece about the Sheffield documentary Tales from Hard City, we mentioned that the filmmakers had made it available to stream on Vimeo for free for the next six months. If you've not already seen it, it’s well worth 80 minutes of your time. One reader who watched the film described it as a “captivating snapshot into 1990s Sheffield”.
Read: At The Tribune we’re big fans of Now Then, one of our fellow independent media outlets in Sheffield. They’ve put together a bumper list of highlights from the magazine over the last 12 months which will keep you busy well into the New Year. My favourites include this investigation into land ownership in the city and this piece about the Sheffield man who set up Amnesty International.
Film: One in-person event that is very unlikely to be affected by the Omicron variant is the Village Screen drive-through cinema at Gulliver’s Valley in Rotherham. Screenings of classic Christmas films are taking place all week including favourites such as The Polar Express, Elf and Miracle on 34th Street. Tickets are priced at £38 per car plus a £3.80 booking fee.
Another thing you can still do (until December 24 at least) is visit the Sheffield Christmas Markets. This amazing shot of the Ferris wheel was captured by city photographer Santiago Arias Franco last weekend. You can find more of Santiago’s photos on Twitter or on Instagram. Full resolution versions will also be on sale as NFTs on his OpenSea website from Thursday, December 23.
Letters from readers
Very pleased you highlighted this very important issue. So much more could be done if the government gave more money and resources to such initiatives (Harnessing the power of nature to prevent flooding in Sheffield), James Coleman
Ludicrous, ignorant, cruel, and ill-natured to target Chinese people here on account of the pandemic. If there are any Chinese people reading this, I would like to extend a warm welcome to them (A clash of cultures for Sheffield’s Chinese students), Ruth Grimsley
Good piece on the future of the former John Lewis store. Demolishing rather than reusing is incredibly environmentally costly — it would be hard to justify doing so after declaring a climate emergency (‘Knocking down John Lewis is madness’),Minesh Parekh