MUCH has been made of the reduced footfall Andover town centre has seen in recent years.

But in light of the prime minster’s announcement this week that people should avoid pubs, clubs and other social settings, it appears that footfall has taken another dive.

Many businesses have reported a dip in custom in recent days as residents are urged to avoid non-essential contact with others.

The general consensus on the high street seems to be to continue with business as usual, but with the addition of safety precautions. Very few premises have shut their doors completely, as owners vow to remain open until instructed to do otherwise.

But this is less out of stubbornness and more out of necessity.

Until the government forces businesses to close, many are unable to make claims for loss of earnings or interrupted business with their insurance companies, as the Andover Tap’s Tim Abrams explains.

He said: “They can’t offer anything under the current conditions. If the government say they will formally close, we may be able to make a claim.”

However, even then their claims may not be accepted.

In the meantime Tim has been taking steps to adapt to the current situation, with the bar reverting to a takeaway service on Friday and Saturday night and looking into the possibility of running a delivery service along with other breweries.

He admits, though, that he’s already had to lay off staff as a result of the current situation.

Another key worry for businesses is rent payments. Kelly Jones, who runs Canto Gelato, says she’s already had to have conversations with the franchise owners about deferring rent payments.

“It’s not going to be easy, don’t get me wrong,” she said, “but we’ve got support from the franchise. But I know other businesses that are independent and will be struggling.”

Nina Lund, owner of the Cutting Edge, says her salon is one such business. But she stresses that she’ll be prioritising the payment of staff over all other costs.

And much like Tim at the Andover Tap, she and her staff have been making amendments to ensure the safety of both staff and customers.

A poster on the front door – one of few in the town centre – asks clients to make “considerate and sensible” decisions about their appointments.

And the team are also offering their earlier appointments to elderly customers who are more concerned about leaving the house when they’ve been told to avoid contact with others.

Nina said: “We’ve opened the doors up to the older people at 9am and got them in and out before anyone else comes along. And that’s what we’ve been saying – we will be opening our doors up early for the older clients if they want to come out.”

The situation has presented other issues, as even the precautionary measures being taken come with their own added cost.

Nina added: “We’ve brought in hand sanitiser, but we got completely fleeced. It’s normally a fiver.”

But with sanitiser becoming harder to come by, Nina says she was forced to pay £65 for three half-litre bottles.

She, like others, says she fears that if businesses are forced to close, some may not reopen.

“It’s going to come to that for a lot of people. For a lot of small businesses it will,” she said.

“We just have to pray it doesn’t get that bad.”