Posted: 23.06.20 at 19:05 by Nick Hudson
THE HALF-FINISHED pint and a solitary figure of an Atherstone publican sipping coffee next to his closed hostelry epitomised a nation’s plight three months ago on Mother’s Day weekend.
A bombshell announcement by Boris Johnson that ordered all pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants along with leisure centre and gyms must close in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 left Ash Warren and his fiancée Charlotte Mayfield not just facing a loss of income but a way life.
Their Market Tavern pub, like countless others which bring communities together in a cosy, intimate connection like no other, was being mothballed as the #StayHomeSaveLives motto was implanted into the collective psyche.
Elsewhere, the notices pinned to doors and scribbled on billboards across the town told their own story.
The Clock indicated to customers it was closed as did its near neighbour, Atherstone Leisure Centre.
Meanwhile, The Legion announced it was suspending its normal Irish and bonus ball lotteries while promising to “restart the Saturday we reopen”.
Fast forward to this afternoon and the same Prime Minister offered a vision of a glass which will not so much half empty as feeling a little fuller as Atherstone raised a cautious toast to the end of most of the lockdown measures in England.
Townsfolk will be able to visit pubs, restaurants, cinemas, community centres, libraries, go to the hairdressers, stop at guest houses and attend places of worship after being given the go ahead for a mass reopening of businesses on what is being dubbed Super Saturday – or mini Independence Day.
July 4 will see the two-metre social distancing rule cut back to a new ‘one-metre plus’ arrangement with families able to be reunited, one set of friends allowed round for dinner, sleepovers but still no hugging of loved ones.
Boris Johnson said the "national hibernation" – imposed on March 23 – is beginning to end, and "life is returning to our streets".
The Prime Minister told MPs that progress in tackling the virus meant steps could be taken to "safely ease the lockdown", but "caution will remain our watchword".
Mr Johnson acknowledged that the two-metre rule "effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy even without other restrictions".
He added: "We're today publishing guidance on how business can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.
"And these include, for instance, avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand sanitiser, changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams."
With guidance replacing legislation, the PM said he is relying on people using their common sense to limit the spread of the virus.
Officials acknowledged that July 4 is a significant step but remains a long way away from normal life.
Among the measures announced by Mr Johnson:
- Pubs and restaurants will be limited to table service;
- People will be able to stay overnight in hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites;
- Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions can reopen;
- Cinemas, museums and galleries will be allowed to admit visitors; and
- People will be able to go to hairdressers to trim their lockdown locks.
However, nightclubs, soft play centres and other businesses that involve close contact will remain shut – including nail bars and beauty salons.
From July 4, two households of any size will be permitted to meet in any setting – inside or out.
"It will be possible to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, the others the following weekend," he said.
Under the new arrangements, drinkers returning to pubs will be asked to provide contact details to help trace them if there is an outbreak of coronavirus.
Mr Johnson said the measures will help restore a sense of normality after "the toughest restrictions in peacetime history".
So what are the key areas being changed in the latest lockdown easing by the Government?
- Social distancing
The two-metre social distancing rule can now be relaxed and replaced with a "one metre plus" rule.
This involves keeping one metre apart, plus other mitigations such as wearing face coverings, sitting people side to side rather than face to face to reduce transmission, and increased use of hand sanitiser.
- Indoor gatherings
Indoor gatherings of any two households will now be allowed.
People will be able to visit someone's house for a dinner party, for example, or to stay over with grandparents as long as social distancing is observed.
- Reopening businesses
Many venues and businesses will be allowed to reopen, as long as they are "Covid-secure", for example by maintaining social distancing.
These include hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartments or homes, cottages or bungalows, campsites, caravan parks or boarding houses. Shared facilities must be kept very clean.
Restaurants, cafes, workplace canteens, bars, pubs and cinemas can reopen, as can libraries, community centres and bingo halls.
Places of worship will be allowed to hold services but singing will be banned. And weddings with up to 30 attendees will now be permitted.
Theatres and concert halls can reopen but not for live performances.
Museums and galleries, hair salons and barbers can reopen.
Outdoor playgrounds, outdoor gyms, funfairs, theme parks and adventure parks and activities can reopen.
Amusement arcades, outdoor skating rinks, indoor leisure centres or facilities – including indoor games and recreation – can also open up.
Social clubs, model villages and indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos, safari parks, farms, wildlife centres, and any place where animals are exhibited to the public as an attraction, can reopen.
- Some venues must stay shut
But some venues must stay shut, including nightclubs, casinos, bowling alleys, indoor skating rinks, and indoor play areas including softplay.
Spas, nail bars and beauty salons must also stay closed for now, as must massage, tattoo and piercing parlours.
Indoor fitness and dance studios, and indoor gyms and sport venues, must stay closed.
Swimming pools and water parks will stay closed.
Exhibition or conference centres that are to be used for exhibitions or conferences must also stay closed.
Questions will undoubtedly remain on the logistics of many of the reopening measures – none more so than the pub trade.
“We’re waiting for more details on how it will all work,” one pub manager announced.