Coronavirus: Bus pass limits lifted to get pensioners to shops

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Hampshire bus passes
Pensioner passes normally don’t allow free travel before 9.30am (Photo: stock image)

RESTRICTIONS on pensioners’ bus passes have been lifted in Hampshire to help them get to the shops earlier to stock up amid widespread panic-buying clearing some shelves.

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With some stores reserving earlier opening hours for older people to pick up provisions, the county council has today (Friday) suspended the usual bar on getting free travel with the passes before 9.30am.

Cllr Rob Humby, HCC deputy leader, said: “We understand these are difficult times for people and we are doing everything we can to help those who need it most.

“I hope that extending the times people can use their free bus passes may go some way in helping them make the most of dedicated early morning shopping hours for the elderly and vulnerable many supermarkets have now put in place.”

HCC’s director of public health, Simon Bryant, urged older people and those with long-term health conditions to increase precautions they would normally take or fly season, including more frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds.

He said: “We can also help the elderly and vulnerable in our families and communities to be prepared by making sure they have supplies of their usual medication and day-to-day items.”

Due to staff shortages, bus companies have warned of last-minute changes to services, and South Western Railway said last week it would reduce operations from Monday after the government urged people to avoid all but essential travel.

SWR said: “By reducing the number of trains running, we can focus on ensuring a reliable timetable for passengers who still have to travel, especially healthcare professionals, police and fire service workers.”

The amended timetable is here.

More services shut

Councils have continued to close services in the New Forest as the coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a “major incident” by Hampshire police Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney.

New Forest District Council said it is no longer taking bookings for the two chapels at Lymington and Beaulieu cemeteries, but stressed they are only used a “handful” of times a year.

NFDC said that “taking into account current guidance and following the lead of churches, we are unable to guarantee adequate social distancing within the confine spaces of the chapels.

“Discussions with regards to grave-side services at these cemeteries should be directed to your funeral director.”

HCC has closed all its outdoor centres until further notice, including the one at Calshot which hosts a climbing wall, ski slopes and velodrome. Public car parks, boat storage and slipways there will remain open for the time being.

HCC’s cabinet member for recreation and heritage, Cllr Seán Woodward, said: “All Hampshire outdoor centres are now closed to help slow the spread of Coronavirus to communities and further afield.”

Also shut are Runway’s End Outdoor Centre near Farnborough and the Hampshire and Cass Foundation Mountain Centre in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. Anyone who has a booking in the next few months will be contacted in the next few days, said HCC.

Cllr Woodward added: “We acknowledge that this will cause disruption, but the health of Hampshire residents and visitors is paramount. When we can reopen our centres will be subject to ongoing reviews.”

The Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum has formally declared the coronavirus outbreak a major incident, said the Chief Constable.

Mrs Pinkney said: “We have already been providing a multi-agency response for a number of weeks and the declaration of a major incident simply means we move to the next phase of our well-rehearsed plans.

“This ensures all partners, which includes all the emergency services, can use joint working arrangements to effectively manage, and where possible minimise, the impact of the virus on our population during these unprecedented times.

The forum comprises public sector partners in Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

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