On Monday, February 22, Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his plan to “cautiously” ease the country back to normality, culminating in all legal limits on social contact being removed no earlier than June 21.
The first step onto the path will begin on March 8 when all schools and colleges will reopen, two people from different households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise; care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor with whom they can hold hands.
From March 29, people will be allowed to meet outside (with one other household or within the ‘rule of six’), including in private gardens; outdoor sport facilities will reopen and formally organised outdoor sports will also restart; weddings attended by up to six people will be able to take place.
From no earlier than April 12: all shops will be allowed to open; restaurants and pubs will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors; gyms and spas will reopen; hairdressers, beauty salons and other “close contact services” will reopen; UK domestic holidays away from home will be permitted, with self-contained accommodation able to reopen for members of the same household.
Mayor of Biggleswade, Councillor Madeline Russell, said: “This slow, cautious opening up is making it even more difficult for local businesses, but the town council will continue with its ‘Buy Biggleswade’ campaign and will do what else it can to encourage people into town to shop and visit other businesses.
“Meanwhile, we all have to do everything we can to keep ourselves and others safe in the hope that the data will mean businesses can open sooner rather than later.”
Emma Sykes, owner of Biggleswade-based Emma Sykes Massage and Skincare Specialist, and founder of campaign group Support for Hair and Beauty Bedfordshire, said: “We can’t wait to get back. There’s some frustrations at the moment because we are having to pay to replace any products that have expired and have to be thrown away.
“[With the timings] it’s fairly realistic. It gives us more time to prepare and we’ll be further forward with the vaccine. Everyone’s had lots of bookings and emails.
“The next applications for [Central Bedfordshire Council’s] ARG funding went live this morning [February 24]. Some people still aren’t able to claim but I’ve been able to put mine in.”
Publican Eamonn Watson, of The Rose in Biggleswade High Street, said: “We’ve got a small garden so we may look to open in April but it’s probably not possible.
“We’re going to wait and see what happens next week with the budget. It all depends on business rates in April, and the furlough scheme. We’d like to because customers want us open. But it’s about viability. And it’s weather dependent. If we get help with business rates that could make a difference.”
On the reopening of schools on Monday, March 8, Roz Hodges, Principal at Stratton Upper School, said: “The government announcement is a welcome indication of the steps back to a more normal school experience and we are very much looking forward to having all our students back in school next month.
“At every stage of this crisis, our priority has been the health and the safety of all our students and staff and so we are spending this week and next ensuring that the school is as safe as it possibly can be when all students return to learning on site.
“We are currently working on our plans to reopen and communicating the central details of this to our staff, students and parents. We will have trained staff supervising the lateral flow Covid-19 tests for students and are asking parents if they give their consent for their child to be tested, in line with the government’s recommendation.
“The core principle to this is that students will be tested three times in school during the first two to three weeks back. Of course, the scale of this brings its own logistical challenge so we will need to invite year groups back in a staggered order from March 8th and will be communicating plans to do this next week.
“The government has recommended the use of face masks indoors in secondary schools, including in classrooms, and this will be in place at the school until at least the end of this term.
“We hope for a much brighter spring and summer where our students are able to see much more of each other in person and enjoy the warmer days by getting outside and being active.”
Moving forward, no earlier than May 17: people will be able to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors; six people or two households will be able to meet indoors; pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to seat customers indoors; up to 30 people will be able to celebrate weddings or other life events, like christenings; remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open; hotels and B&Bs will reopen; international leisure travel will resume.
Finally, no earlier than June 21, all legal limits on social contact will be removed.
Commenting on the roadmap, a Sandy Town Council spokeswoman, said: “The government’s announcement of the roadmap out of lockdown will have been welcomed by many in our community.
“The last year has been extremely difficult for our residents, as it has been for those across the nation and around the world; people will be keenly look forward to days when life can begin to return to normal and for opportunities to come together again with loved ones and celebrate our community.
“We will be glad to welcome members of the public back to some of our outdoor sport and leisure facilities from the end of March, and ask that users remain mindful of all government covid-safety advice during this time.
“We would also encourage residents to continue supporting our wonderful local businesses on the high street and across the town when they are hopefully permitted to reopen in mid-April.
“The council will also be looking to reopen our office to the public, for local information and in-person enquiries, in line with the lessening of restrictions.
“We know that, while the easing of restrictions is welcomed, the changes carry an inherent risk. Alongside the progress of the national vaccination programme, we must all keep on following the rules through each of the roadmap steps.
“Ahead of the major changes to Covid restrictions, the council is continuing to reach out to our residents with opportunities for enrichment and community engagement.
“Our World Book Day Kids’ Craft competition is open until March 4, with six national book tokens up for grabs. Also, we are currently planning an Easter bunny trail to help keep children active through the school holidays and encourage families to explore our town.”
Look out for more information on events and council services at www.facebook.com/sandytowncouncil.