Suffolk unlocked: Stage two of the government's roadmap out of lockdown starts today with the reopening of pubs, hairdressers and more
Businesses across Suffolk have been welcoming back customers today for the first time in months.
Today marks the day many have been waiting for as the second stage of the government's 'roadmap' towards lifting lockdown comes into force
For the first time since last year, hairdressers, all shops, pub gardens, libraries and outdoor attractions such as animal parks across the county are allowed to reopen.
And several businesses have been taking to social media to remind customers they can now pay them a visit.
Independent Aldeburgh Bookshop tweeted that it was reopening for the first time since Christmas Eve today.
Community Rail project Lowestoft Central has also opened its doors for the first time in a few months.
In a Tweet, the team said they were 'looking forward to welcoming' visitors back to their station shop, Tourist Information Office and Community Rail hub.
And shoppers in Bury St Edmunds have been marking the 'end of an era' this morning as the town's Debenhams store reopens for a closing down sale.
What changes from today?
The 'closed signs' can, at last, be switched to 'open' as the country takes the next step towards something that feels a bit more like normality.
From today, retailers whose businesses were deemed 'non-essential' can welcome back customers and staff, many of whom have been on furlough.
It is table service only in pub gardens, where drinks can be served without the need to order a 'substantial meal'. Restaurants are also allowed to serve people outdoors.
Barbers and salons can reopen, as can all other close-contact services, such as nail bars.
Anyone desperate to get away from it all can take a holiday from today - but only in England, to somewhere that's self-contained with no shared facilities.
Options for what to do on days out are now more plentiful, with the return of attractions such as animal parks.
Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools are also now allowed to accept visitors, as are libraries and community centres.
It will also be possible to have a driving lesson with a professional instructor, although patience will be required for anyone ready to take a test, as they return on April 22.
The number of people who can be at a wedding increases as of today, rising from six to 15. However, there are still limits on where ceremonies can take place and the majority of wedding venues will remain closed.
Funerals can be attended by 30 people but now 15 can go to the wake, up from six.
The number of visitors who can go into care homes has doubled, to two per resident, dependant on a negative Covid test result.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn but babies and children are not counted in the limit, so can also see relatives.
While a lot changes from today, social distancing rules still apply, so businesses have had to work hard to make sure they are Covid secure.
The rule-of-six or two households limit for meeting outdoors also remains in place.
It was last week that Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the second part of the 'roadmap to freedom' could be followed as planned.
The start of stage two means four tests set by the government were being met. They are:
- The vaccine rollout continues successfully
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing hospitalisations and deaths
- Infection rates will not see a spike in hospitalisations which would overwhelm the NHS
- The assessment of risks is not changed by new Covid variants
Meanwhile, the third stage of the easing of lockdown will not happen before May 17.
That's when most restrictions on meeting outdoors will be lifted - although gatherings of more than 30 people will still be illegal. Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply.
An update on social distancing between family and friends, including hugging, is expected no later than May 17.
Hospitality will reopen indoors but the table service rule will remain in place.
Other indoor locations opening up after May 17 at the earliest include entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and children’s play areas, hotels, hostels and B&Bs and sporting facilities for adult group sports and exercise classes.
Performances and large events will be able to resume but with limits on audience numbers.
Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals.
The fourth stage of lifting lockdown is not due to start until June 21 but before that a review of social distancing measures will be carried out.
It will be used to help decide what to do about rules such as keeping one metre-plus apart and wearing face masks. There will also be guidance on whether people need to continue working from home.
If all goes to plan, but not before June 21, legal limitations on socialising could be lifted.
The results of pilot events held in the spring, where testing will be trialled, will guide decisions on lifting limits applied to larger events and performances, where audience numbers had previously been limited, and weddings.