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What lockdown easing means for businesses

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Written by: Emma Lunn
23/02/2021
There have been varied reactions from business and industry sectors to the government announcement that lockdown rules will start to be relaxed from 8 March, with all limits on social contact potentially removed on 21 June.

There are four steps in Boris Johnson’s roadmap, with a gap of at least five weeks between each of these steps. Different sectors can open on different dates, subject to social distancing rules, and presuming that the government’s four key tests are met.

Here’s what’s going on in shops, hospitality, events, sport, and travel.

Non-essential retail

So-called ‘non-essential’ retail is set to open on 12 April, alongside hairdressers, nail salons, gyms, and public buildings such as libraries.

But this means most retailers will miss out on the Easter trading period, having already missed the busy Christmas period. As a result, the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) is calling for more support for affected businesses.

Andrew Goodacre, BIRA CEO, said: “Independent retailers are desperate to be open and serving their communities – they have always been safe and will continue to be so. In the meantime we have large general retailers, and garden centres free to trade despite only selling a small amount of essential items with the prospect of being free from competition for the next seven weeks.”

Pubs

If you want to sit outside a pub with a pint, 12 April is the date for your diary. If all the government’s conditions are met, this is when hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors. Unlike the last time the pubs were open, there won’t be a requirement to order a ‘substantial’ meal and there won’t be a curfew.

Pubs can potentially serve customers indoors from 17 May, albeit subject to the ‘rule of six’ and table service only. Then, on the golden date of 21 June, pubs can operate completely normally. This makes the pub industry one of the last to fully re-open.

Nik Antona, CAMRA national chairman, said: “We know that pubs aren’t vectors for transmission, so ministers must publish the full evidence behind applying restrictions on pubs when the likes of non-essential retail will be able to fully open up sooner and without restrictions.

“Whilst scrapping the curfew and substantial meal requirement is welcome, only permitting pubs to operate using outside space at first, and then inside using table service only, isn’t a proper re-opening. Two thirds of pubs could stay closed during the outdoor-only trading period, with many more likely to struggle without being able to trade at full capacity while the table-service-only requirement remains.”

Events and weddings

If you plan to get hitched this year, you can do so with 15 people at your wedding from 12 April, if all goes to plan. That number goes up to 30 people from 17 May. Restrictions on guest numbers will be completely lifted by 21 June if Johnson’s target dates are achieved.

Matthew Shaw, creative director at creative events company Sauveur, said: “The events and weddings industries are filled with highly resourceful, skilled, and agile professionals, who have been crying out for a clear framework from which to build. At long last, this roadmap offers some much needed visibility and guidance.”

Sport and exercise

Children and young people will be able to take part in sport and activity at school or as part of wraparound care from 8 March.

From 29 March, outdoor sports facilities, like tennis and basketball, will be allowed to reopen and formally organised outdoor sports will resume.

Indoor leisure facilities like gyms and swimming pools will re-open on 12 April, but only for use by people on their own or with their household.

Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active, said: “Crucially, we welcome the news that gyms, pools and leisure centres feature in the earliest stage possible for reopening indoor venues, providing vital clarity for thousands of our members and a long-awaited boost for millions of their customers.

“The decision to reopen fitness and leisure facilities in stage two underlines the role they play in our nation’s social fabric and in supporting the NHS, providing an essential service for the mental and physical health of millions.”

Holidays

Last night’s announcement reignited hope that Brits may be able to take summer holidays after all.

Overnight stays for one household in self-contained accommodation that doesn’t require shared use of bathrooms, entry, exit or catering facilities will be permitted from 12 April at the earliest. The earliest date hotels and B&Bs can reopen is currently 17 May.

The same date is potentially the earliest we’ll be allowed to leave the country.

A taskforce will report to the prime minister on 12 April with recommendations about how to allow international travel while still managing the risk of imported cases and Covid variants. Only after this meeting will the government determine when, and how, international travel should resume.

Holiday firms have reported a surge in bookings since the roadmap announcement – but travel experts have sounded a note of caution.

Which? travel editor Rory Boland Tweeted: “It’s ultimately up to people whether they feel comfortable booking a holiday abroad or not, but they should at least be advised of the risks of doing so now. Flex booking policies can mitigate some, but not all, of those issues.

“You will, as ever, be far better protected by a good package holiday provider – although there no way to remove risk of hotel quarantine – until government stops it.”

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