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South Warwickshire leaders welcome gradual route out of lockdown

THE roadmap for the gradual easing of the national lockdown has been welcomed in south Warwickshire – but residents have been asked to keep sticking with the rules and urged to help support the area’s businesses online until they can again reopen.

Boris Johnson PA Media (44533489)
Boris Johnson PA Media (44533489)

Cllr Tony Jefferson said: "We are pleased the government has signposted a preliminary path back to normality and that our businesses now have some indication on when they might be able to reopen – although we recognise this is very much a first stage in what could be quite lengthy transition.

"Stratford District has been particularly affected by the pandemic compared to other regions, so we know how important it is to get this recovery right - which means reopening gradually rather than quickly and risking further lockdowns.

"If all goes well, we hope to see tourists return to our district once again to enjoy all it has to offer and help the economy recover.

“Before that happens, we would implore everyone to continue to follow the rules and to encourage people to support Stratford district businesses as much as possible by purchasing from them online."

And Helen Peters, chief executive of Shakespeare’s England, said the plans give tourism businesses a date to aim for.

“It makes perfect sense to do it this way so that we don’t find ourselves back in another lockdown situation once again just months down the line at a time when tourism and hospitality businesses are busy,” she said.

“Today’s announcement of the four steps and potential earliest dates for these to take place, starting with the re-opening of schools on 8th March and allowing outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households from 29th March, is very reassuring and an encouraging start.

“However, my members will be delighted to hear that pubs and restaurants with outdoor space, along with zoos and outdoor attractions will be allowed to open up alongside non-essential retail on 12th April, that the PM is aiming for indoor spaces, including theatres cinemas and hotels to be accessible once more from 17th May and that there is a real ambition for most of the remaining restrictions to be eased by 21st June.

“Now what we have some preliminary dates, it gives the industry sensible preparation times for businesses to restock, reorganise staffing and check all their Covid secure mitigation is in place.

“This will all help build confidence amongst our visitors, allow businesses to plan and stimulate the economy.”

The four-stage plan was set out by Boris Johnson in the Commons.

In the first phase, all pupils in England’s schools are expected to return to class from 8th March.

Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted from that date.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on 29th March when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

Other measures in the road map set out by the Prime Minister include:

– From 12th April at the earliest: shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will reopen.

– From 17th May at the earliest, two households or groups of up to six people will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed at sporting events.

– From 21st June at the earliest, all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.

Mr Johnson said: “The threat remains substantial with the numbers in hospital only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April.

“But we are able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British people and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK.”

Alongside the four-step plan, the Prime Minister launched a series of reviews – including on whether people should be able to show if they have had a Covid-19 vaccine or a negative test.

The work will look at whether “Covid status certification” could help reopen the economy by allowing people who have received a jab or a negative test result to do things which would not be allowed for those who could not prove their status.

Officials recognise that there are moral and ethical questions as well as practical ones for any such move, which has been highly controversial in Westminster.

A research programme will use pilot schemes involving testing and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes.

International travel rules will also be reviewed, with 17th May targeted as the earliest possible date for a foreign holiday.

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