• Watch the full report from ITV West Country reporter Richard Lawrence, on the first day of eased lockdown restrictions

Thousands of people across the West Country have been adapting to the new relaxed lockdown rules.

Many made a cautious return to work on Wednesday (13 May) following Government advice that those unable to do their jobs from home are encouraged to go back where "it is safe to do so".

People have been asked to avoid public transport where at all possible, but for many there is no alternative.

  • BUSINESS

Stroud-based Ecotricity says the office will not be full again until a vaccine is found. Credit: ITV West Country

In Stroud, energy company Ecotricity plans to allow staff to split their time between home and the office.

Owner Dale Vince told ITV News West Country that he doesn't think they will be "anywhere near full office occupancy anytime soon" - at least until a vaccine is found and approved.

We're working on our own plans to bring people back and we may start to do that from next week. But we're not going to do it in a hurry, we're going to do it carefully. We'll control the circumstances and control the risk.

Dale Vince, Owner, Ecotricity

Garden Centres in the region have also been able to reopen with extra measures in place to minimise the spread of the virus.

Workers at garden centres will now be wearing PPE. Credit: ITV News West Country

We are relived to be back in business. We've been waiting for this day to come for quite a while and we're looking forward to serving our customers. We've got a long way to go. But I feel we need to be positive and look to the future. And we've got a window now to sell some plants.

John Giblin, garden centre owner
Estate agents can now hold viewings and valuations again. Credit: ITV West Country

The housing market is up and running again too, which means estate agents have also returned to work.

Robert Nagle, from Leese & Nagle Estate Agents in Bristol, said all appointments now have to be carried out with people using face masks and gloves.

He said it is crucial that people visiting the agency feel there is a "sense of comfort and trust that we will be vigilant and appropriate" in the way they are working.

The impact of the new measures on the West Country economy has yet to be quantified but business leaders say it is a step in the right direction.

We're not expecting big changes, it's going to be more incremental. For example, most manufactures have stayed open anyway, most construction sites have tried to stay open but its more of a signal of intent from government about what they're expecting to see take place in a series of steps.

Matt Griffith, Business West
  • BEACHES

  • Watch the full report from ITV West Country reporter Kathy Wardle as people return to beaches in Cornwall

The new regulations are good news for some, but there are also concerns.

Beaches across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset are traditionally very popular with visitors from around the country, especially at this time of year.

Tourist leaders are worried that an influx of visitors could potentially have a significant impact on the health of local communities now people in England can travel unlimited distances for daily exercise.

Caroline Darlington from Visit Weston said people from as far away as London have been calling to ask if Weston-super-Mare beach is open.

My phone hasn't stopped ringing with people from as far away as London, Birmingham, saying can we come to your beach, is your beach open ?

Caroline Darlington, Visit Weston
The RNLI has issued a warning to people, reminding them that beaches remain without lifeguards. Credit: ITV West Country

On the day restrictions were lifted slightly, the RNLI in Port Isaac had to rescue two people spotted in a small boat off the coast of Port Gaverne.

They were seen by a member of the public who said, "It looked as though they were trying to get back into shore but couldn't. The sea was terrible."

RNLI crew members found the two men without life jackets or appropriate clothing for the conditions when they reached them.

Unfortunately the men were completely unprepared for their trip. They were not wearing life jackets or clothing appropriate to the conditions. They had no basic safety equipment and the engine was brand new so they had no experience of using it before. There were also signs clearly displayed stating the beach was still closed to boats launching. They realised straight away that they had made a mistake in going out and were polite, apologetic and embarrassed. We gave them some safety advice and they returned home. The men were from Cornwall but not the local area and had travelled to the area by car.

Matthew Main, Volunteer Helm for Port Isaac RNLI Lifeboat

The rescue comes just days after the RNLI urged members of the public to take extra care following changes to Government guidance.

The following safety advice has been issued:

  • Take care near cliffs - know your route and your limitations

  • Have a plan - always check the weather forecast and tide times

  • If you fall into water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE - fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend arms and legs, float.

  • If boating, make sure your equipment is working and well maintained.

  • In a coastal emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

  • POLICING

Avon and Somerset Police said people have mostly been sticking to the lockdown restrictions. Credit: ITV West Country

After more than seven weeks of enforcing strict lockdown rules, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police has thanked members of the public for sticking to the guidelines.

Andy Marsh said that the force has only issued 322 tickets to people flouting the rules since the start of the pandemic.

While he described the new regulations as "challenging", he said they are "not impossible" and the force will continue to police as before.

These regulations are challenging. But they are absolutely not impossible. It's clear what our role is.

Andy Marsh, Avon and Somerset's Chief Constable

The Chief Constable admitted that the force has "regrettably had a small but significant number" of occasions where officers have been subject to abuse.

He said officers "have been coughed at, spat at, bitten" by people alleging to have coronavirus.

But Andy Marsh, "it is a time for society to pull together and support their police" as we continue to support all key workers during the pandemic.

For all the latest coronavirus updates from the West Country, click here.