'It's amazing' - hugs return and pubs open inside as restrictions ease in the South West

Hasan Kilic was able to hug his brother as restrictions eased. Credit: ITV West Country

Tourism and entertainment venues, indoor hospitality and dining, and social contact restrictions all eased on Monday 17 May.

Visitors are now allowed to enter hotels, restaurants, cafes, and pubs as well as being able to hug close family and friends.

Businesses across the West Country have opened their doors to welcome customers and as part of the third step in the roadmap out of lockdown.

Tourism

Tourist venues like the Roman Baths have opened after nearly five months of closure.

Although the historic site is operating at 20 per cent capacity, with pre-booking only, masks, and a one-way system, visitors are delighted to be back.

Stephen Clews, the manager of the Roman Baths, believes the restrictions at the site improve the visitor experience Credit: ITV West Country

One person said: "I think it’s fantastic. It feels like we’re doing something normal and something wonderful and coming back to somewhere which is so special." Another commented: "It’s brilliant to be here on the first day to actually see everybody getting back into seeing all these things."

The manager of the baths, Stephen Clews, says the restrictions at the site actually make the visit better for tourists.

He said: "In many ways it’s actually improved the experience.

"We’ve also restricted the total number of people who can enter the site at any one time so there are no long queues to enter the site.

"When you go around, you have plenty of space to enjoy."

Hospitality

Bars, pubs, cafes, hotels, and other indoor hospitality venues are also now allowed to have customers inside.

At the Minerva Inn, Plymouth's oldest pub, the landlady Shelly Jones was pleased to invite her regular customers inside.

She said: "It’s amazing, when I opened the door and saw them waiting, the locals who’d come in every day, it’s great to have them back."

A group of customers enter the Cartgate Lodge cafe in Yeovil Credit: ITV West Country

Meanwhile, at the Cartgate Lodge cafe in Yeovil, customers spoke about how liberating it feels to be allowed back indoors to enjoy a meal.

One person said: "Being able to come inside and sit down, it’s like old times. It's lovely.” Another customer said: "It’s really nice to have a break and just to know that everything is opening up again and life’s sort of getting back to normal.

"Just to have that social aspect is very freeing. I feel very lucky."


Social contact

As well as businesses reopening, the lockdown rules relating to social contact have also relaxed.

People are now legally allowed to gather in homes as long as they are from two households and there are no more than six people.

Hasan Kilic invited his brother around for a meal and gave him a hug as it is now legal to do both Credit: ITV West Country

Hugging friends and family is also allowed - something for which Hasan Kilic from Helston is grateful.

After inviting his brother around to his house and hugging him, he said: "We are elated to be able to greet and invite my brother round.

"We welcome the news and hopefully, things will be looking up and be able to go back to normality."

'We need to be cautious'

Despite the re-opening of establishments across the region, the director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Rachel Wigglesworth, advises people still need to be mindful that coronavirus cases can still rise.

She said: "In Cornwall and most of the South West, we do at the moment have low cases of coronavirus.

"But things can change quite quickly as we know from the past and when people mix indoors, that’s when that likely spread can happen.

"Not everybody is vaccinated, only about two thirds of our adult population have been vaccinated so things can change and we need to be cautious."


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