Covid lockdown easing: South prepares to open up

Charlotte Wilkins reports from the Burlington Hotel in Eastbourne as it prepares to re-open after a very difficult year. She spoke to restaurant manager, Moses Chege, maintenance manager, Tony Compton and General Manager, Wayne Cawthorne.

Penny Silvester reports on businesses in the south and Thames Valley, as indoor hospitality adjusts to re-opening. She spoke to Heather Macaulay, landlady of The Bell in West Berkshire, and Karen Glassey at Legoland.

Businesses in the south are preparing to re-open indoor venues and facilities as the country takes its biggest step yet to a return to normality.

From Monday, pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors in groups of up to six people, although they will be limited to table service.

Recreational venues, such as cinemas, gyms, museums and theatres will also be allowed to reopen, although distancing measures will remain in place.

Cinemas will be able to re-open with social distancing Credit: PA

May 17th marks the most significant relaxation of rules yet and is due to be followed up with almost a complete end to restrictions sometime in the summer, although Boris Johnson cast some doubt on the June 21 reopening date, as Indian Covid variant cases continue to spread.

Any future plans are contingent on the continued success of the vaccine rollout and the containment of virus and any variants of concern.

Boris Johnson confirmed the planned lockdown lifting on May 17 would go ahead at the start of the week and hailed the new rules as a "considerable step on the road back to normality."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Credit: PA

People across England will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, and indoors - including private homes - in groups of six, or two households.

Close contact between friends and family will also be allowed to resume, meaning people can finally hug again.

Other recreational venues such as cinemas, museums, theatres and concert halls will be allowed to reopen, although there will be capacity limits on large events.

Credit: PA graphics

Up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings, although dancing will still not be allowed, and the cap on the number of mourners attending funerals will be lifted, in line with the safe capacity of the venue.

Secondary school pupils will no longer be told to wear face masks in class and communal areas, and university students will return to campus for in-person lectures.

There will also be a further relaxation on the number of named visitors a person living in a care home will be allowed to have.

The "stay in the UK" restriction will lift and people will be able to travel to "green list" countries without having to quarantine, provided they take one post-arrival test.

Only a few nations like Portugal and Israel made it onto the green list with popular holiday destinations like France and Spain currently on amber.

Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the restart of indoor exercise classes and organised sport is a “vital” step forward for millions of people, the sector says.

In England, indoor group exercise and indoor organised sport are now safe to reopen under the latest phase of the road map, with providers following Government-approved safety guidelines on sanitation, ventilation and social distancing to ensure participants can return safely and confidently.

Alongside group activities, saunas and steam rooms within spas and indoor leisure facilities and children’s play areas can also reopen.

Industry association ukactive said the reopening marked a major milestone for gyms, leisure centres, pools and boutique studios and for the millions of people who use fitness classes to support their physical and mental wellbeing.

Hotels and B&Bs prepare to welcome guests

Hotels and bed and breakfasts across the region are busily preparing to welcome guests back through their doors tomorrow too.

The Burlington Hotel in Eastbourne nearly closed its doors for good after the company which ran it went in to administration in May last year. But, luckily, it's been taken over and many of the original staff have been kept on. They are looking forward to welcoming guests once again. Our reporter Charlotte Wilkins has been speaking to Restaurant Manager, Moses Chege; Maintenance Manager, Tony Compton and General Manager, Wayne Cawthorne.