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Some residents of town with high COVID-19 infection rates ‘just don’t care’

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On Ocean Road in South Shields, the person next to you is four times as likely to have COVID-19 compared with on the average shopping street in England.

This is a town with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country, where vaccination rates, as with life opportunities, are lower than in many other places.

Len, a 78-year-old retired shipyard sheet metal worker, walked through the town centre wearing a mask, having had both his jabs.

He declined to give his surname but didn’t hold back from criticising those who won’t take the virus seriously.

“There’s a lot of people who just ignore the advice given, walking around with no masks [and] crowding together,” he said.

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Reflecting on what might be behind the behaviour that’s spreading the virus so fast here, he suggested poverty could be a factor.

Then he added: “A lot of them it’s just bravado, an ‘It’ll not happen to me’ attitude, some of them just don’t care anyway.”

Joey Arnetti, a wheelchair user with multiple health issues since a work accident 20 years ago, has strong views about the high transmission rates, and the prime minister’s decision to remove compulsory restrictions from Monday.

Joey Arnetti (L)
Image: Joey Arnetti (L) doesn’t want restrictions to ease on Monday

“He’s going to flood more people with COVID, and it frightens me,” she said.

“I don’t want it, I did shielding twice.”

Paul Hedley, a chef at Tuscano’s restaurant in the town centre, condemned those who dismiss the virus but said they have a right to their opinions.

Paul Hedley
Image: Paul Hedley believes people have a right to their opinions about the virus

“I’ve got a friend who is completely against it all and I think he’s a fool,” he said.

“I’m going to keep wearing my mask, it’s a personal choice.”

South Tyneside Council has a statement on its website telling people: “The time has come for us to learn to live safely with COVID.”

Two men in their early 20s, who approached us as we filmed, demonstrated that the message hasn’t reached everyone.

“Are you here to spread more lies and propaganda?” one asked.