Outdoor attractions including safari parks and drive-in cinemas where visitors can stay in their cars will also get permission to begin trading again from Monday. Both measures will be seen as a major boost for the UK’s tourism industry and will be welcomed by families desperate for fun days out after weeks of being cooped up. The Prime Minister’s announcement follows confirmation that non-essential shops will be able to reopen next week.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the move would allow “high streets up and down the country to spring back into life.”
But he dampened speculation that some pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating could reopen this month.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not be able to reopen until July 4 “at the earliest”, he said.
Ministers agreed to the next steps in easing the lockdown after being updated on the scientific evidence on the state of the epidemic at the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Official data showed the infection rate continuing to drop around the country while yesterday’s death toll from the virus was 286, down from nearly 1,000 a day at the peak of the epidemic.
Boris Johnson announces new lockdown easing measures
A zoo keeper wearing PPE lays out food at Chester Zoo
Following yesterday’s Cabinet discussion, a Downing Street official said: “People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.
“This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors, while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals.”
The Prime Minister will formally announce the decision at the daily Downing Street media briefing this afternoon.
He agreed to rush forward the reopening of zoos, scheduled for next month in his “road map” for unlocking the economy, following warnings that many of the businesses could collapse if they were forced to stay shut for much longer.
Zoo owners have warned that thousands of animals could be put down because of a lack of cash to feed and care for them.
MPs were due to debate the threat to zoos in the Commons tomorrow.
UK coronavirus statistics – latest
Reopening zoos will have to enforce strict social distancing rules and keep indoor facilities such as reptile and insect houses and aquariums closed. Cafes may be permitted to provide takeaway food only.
The move follows discussions between ministers and zoo bosses about how to ensure visitor numbers can be managed and safeguards put in place.
Whitehall officials pointed out that the Government has provided financial support for businesses during the lockdown including a £14million fund for smaller zoos to continue to care for their animals.
Zoos have also been eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including business rates relief, the business interruption loan scheme, and the job retention scheme. This is additional to other available relief such as VAT deferral.
Mr Sharma confirmed the reopening of non-essential retail outlets at yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing.
“I can confirm today that retail outlets which have been required to be closed will be able to open their doors again from Monday, June 15 so long as they comply with the COVID-secure guidelines we published on May 25.
“This is the latest step in the careful restarting of our economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life,” the Business Secretary said.
Boris Johnson set to give zoos the green light to reopen soon
Shops will have to adopt safety measures already in place in many supermarkets and pharmacies including special opening hours for vulnerable people, perspex screens to protect staff, floor markings to guide shoppers and limiting the numbers allowed on the premises at one time.
“In the new normal, we have all got used to shopping with social distancing. Now is the right time to apply these principles more widely to other shops as we continue our reopening of the economy,” he said.
Mr Sharma said the Government remained committed to the timetable for reopening the hospitality industry set out in the Prime Minister’s road map.
“Of course, there are businesses which still remain closed. As soon as we can we will publish further safer working guidance for restaurants, pubs and bars, as well as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars and related services.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about when we might be able to reopen these parts of the economy and I completely understand why we’re all so keen to get them back up and running, and I absolutely share that enthusiasm.
“But we continue to follow the road map which set out our ambition to reopen these sectors from July 4 at the earliest,” he said.
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Importance of social distancing
“I do get why businesses in a whole range of sectors make the economic case why you would want to move closer than two metres.
“But, ultimately, this is about what is safe. We will keep this under review. We will only make changes when it is safe to do so,” he said.
“When it is safe to do so, we will see whether you can move to a shorter distance but ultimately we keep all of these things under review,” he told the No 10 briefing.
“There are other countries in the world that have moved from two metres to closer distances. Of course, they are further along in terms of their road map, in terms of opening up businesses.
“We are taking a cautious view on this. I completely understand why for economic reasons businesses will want to have a look at this two-metre rule.”
Health and Safety Executive chief executive Sarah Albon told the briefing that reducing the number of infections as well as the rate of transmission was the key to altering the two-metre rule.
“It requires a view both of the chance of the infection being passed on but also the prevalence in society, because that mix of how many people in the population have got this illness combined with what’s a safe distance gives you the probability of something being passed on,” she said.