'Exciting time for us all' as lockdown relaxation confirmed
- Credit: PA
A Suffolk business leader has heralded the announcement that shops, hairdressers, and pub beer gardens will reopen as planned on April 12, saying it is "an exciting time for us all".
Boris Johnson tonight confirmed the next step on the road map out of lockdown and told a Downing Street press conference he was looking forward to getting to the pub next week but warned against booking any holidays abroad just yet.
And he urged people not to be complacent and said the difficulties faced by countries in Europe illustrated the risks still posed by the pandemic.
Mr Johnson said: "The net result of your efforts and of course the vaccine rollout is that I can today confirm that from Monday April 12, we will move to step two of our road map.
"Reopening shops, gyms, zoos, holiday campsites, personal care services like hairdressers and of course beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds.
"And on Monday 12, I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips."
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He added: "We can't be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes.
"We still don't know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I'm afraid that they will, and that's why we are saying please get your vaccine - or your second dose - when your turn comes."
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He also encouraged people to use free NHS tests as part of the drive to identify cases without symptoms.
Reacting to the announcement, Mark Cordell, chief executive for Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID), said he was "delighted" the road map was being adhered to.
"It's great news for non-essential retail, wellbeing and hospitality businesses who now have a week to get ready for the return of customers," he said.
"The BID will be spreading the word, with a variety of messages, to make people aware that our town centre and businesses are safe to visit and reminding people of what a great offer our town centre has.
"It's an exciting time for us all."
But Ady Smith, landlord of the Dove Street Inn in Ipswich, said he was still waiting for further specific details on Tuesday around hospitality businesses before committing to any potential reopening dates.
"I'm waiting on the actual guidance because they haven't told us anymore about what the restrictions are going to be within it," he said.
"Hopefully when we get the guidance, we'll know what's possible and what's not. The only thing we know is there's no curfew and no essential food but they haven't said about wearing masks, supposedly we have to track and trace every single person who comes in and that will all have a bearing on whether we can open or not.
"It's all very well him standing there saying pubs are going to reopen but the reality is - is it going to be financially viable?
"If you take a night like tonight for example, when it's about four degrees outside, who's going to want to sit outside drinking beer? And if you brought all your staff back off furlough, you're going to be losing more money than you were being shut."
David Marjoram, owner of a brewery and five pubs, including the One Bull in Bury St Edmunds, said: "Obviously I'm pleased that we can make some sort of progress, but there's a limited amount we can do.
"Across our five sites, we've got one opening straight away from the 12th as normal trading hours, two that are opening weekends only and another two that we can't open at all.
"But I think at least this time around, although we're still awaiting confirmation, we've been able to plan ahead and manage the expectations of our customers and our team and work out what's best and do it in a stable, progressive way."