News & Views
Outdoor dining to return in England’s new Covid lockdown ease
Non-essential retail shops, including shopping malls, pubs and restaurants and hairdressers are among the businesses to reopen their doors to customers from April 12, when England enters its next stage of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions being eased.
Indoor gyms, swimming pools, libraries, zoos and nail salons are also among the establishments now allowed to reopen, with pubs and restaurants required to strictly follow outdoor dining rules. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had declared that he would be among the first people to order a pint of beer in a beer garden when the rules are relaxed, a plan now postponed due to the week-long national mourning period following the death of .
Meanwhile, retailers are hoping that customers will return to stores once again, having resorted to online shopping for months since the UK entered its second stay-at-home lockdown in January. Many have spent money on measures such as safety glass, queueing systems, social distancing signage, better ventilation, and more frequent cleaning in an effort to keep people safe from the coronavirus.
A major part of many retailers' game plan is offering customers the ability to try on clothes in fitting rooms – something not possible for online shoppers and something that has not been available in physical shops even during the last reopening.
Restaurants and pubs are also renewing measures deployed during the few months of reopening last year, including the use of the Covid-19 app to record details for the NHS Test and Trace system.
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Under new changes, everyone in England can now access free, regular, rapid Covid-19 testing as part of the plans for this latest stage of the lockdown being eased. Anyone can now access free, rapid lateral flow tests for themselves and their families to use twice a week, in line with clinical guidance.
“Around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus without any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is one of the simplest and easiest ways we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. I’d encourage everyone to take up the offer and test twice a week,” said.
“Alongside the successful roll-out of the vaccination programme, rapid testing will be one of our most effective weapons in tackling this virus and ensuring we can cautiously reopen our economy and parts of society that we have all missed. The British people have made a tremendous effort throughout the pandemic and I am confident they will do the same now by taking up this offer of free, rapid tests,” he said.
Rapid lateral flow tests are said to detect cases with high levels of virus and are very effective in finding people who do not have symptoms but are very likely to transmit the disease. Anyone testing positive is then expected to follow up with a more reliable PCR test. People who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive with Covid-19 can also order a PCR test during their 10-day self-isolation period, whether or not they have symptoms.
An updated “Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air” campaign is also being used to remind the public of the need to use the NHS Covid-19 app to check in to premises, including outdoor hospitality, hairdressers and gyms. This will run across digital, social, radio and out-of-home channels.
This weekend, a further 40 people died in the UK of the deadly virus and another 2,589 coronavirus cases have been recorded. The country's Covid death toll now stands at 127,080, while there have been 4,368,050 lab-confirmed cases. While the curve of serious Covid hospitalisations and deaths has been flattening as a result of the lockdown and mass vaccination programme, experts warn that the reopening of the economy is likely to see another rise in infections in the coming weeks.