Prime Minister Boris Johnson will keep the nation informed about easing more lockdown restrictions on Wednesday as he tries to reopen the economy and minimize Covid-19’s transmission rate.
Zoos, safari parks and drive-in movie theaters will reopen in England from June 15, Boris Johnson announces in the latest relaxation of the coronavirus lock.
It comes the same day as all non-essential retailers in the country are allowed to reopen.
But there is still no light for pubs, cafes and restaurants that must remain closed until July 4 at the latest.
Mr Johnson could also use today’s announcement to discuss ‘airlifts’ – a plan that would allow British citizens to go on holiday in a number of other countries without quarantine.
It would also allow tourists from those countries to visit and stay in the UK.
Industry insiders say the airlifts will be in a few weeks and announcements are due soon.
That’s after the quarantine regulations came into effect in the UK, meaning that anyone arriving here should stay at a permanent address and be isolated for 14 days.
Under pressure from zoos warning of an exponential threat, Mr. Johnson will say at the Downing Street press conference today that they can reopen next week as long as they follow social distance rules.
He will also announce the easing of restrictions on outdoor attractions where people stay in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in movie theaters, because the risk of the disease spreading outdoors is less.
The move will pave the way for zoos to reopen in England alongside nonessential stores, despite schools remaining closed to many students.
A Downing Street official said, “People continue to make great sacrifices to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is difficult and where we can safely open more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do that.
“This is necessarily a careful process, but we hope that the reopening of safari parks and zoos will provide families with more opportunities to spend time outdoors while supporting the industry that takes care of these incredible animals.”
The announcement comes after London Zoo and other institutions across the country have warned that they may be permanently closed if they are not allowed to reopen.
The Prime Minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, had joined calls for zoos to ‘reopen as soon as possible’ after they were ordered to close when the closure was imposed on March 23.
While the easing will be a relief, zoos will be told not to reopen indoor exhibitions, such as reptile houses, and ensure that amenities such as cafes are takeaway only.
On Tuesday, the international charity Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs London zoos and Whipsnade, said it was struggling because of declining revenues and rising costs, while also being turned down for a bank loan because of the government’s “misunderstanding” help out.
Chester Zoo bosses have also warned that it is “threatened with extinction” and that the year could see a debt of £ 24 million expire.
Commenting on the announcement, ZSL Director General Dominic Jermey said he was very pleased and added, “We are waiting for more details from the government, but our zoos are eager to leave as soon as we get the green light.
“We expect tickets to be ready to book on Friday – and everyone will have to book so we can manage capacity. We hope that the support we’ve seen so far for our zoos translates into visitors coming to support us to further support us. “
Claudia Roberts, general manager of the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), who runs Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive in Suffolk, said the announcement gave them a “fighting chance for survival.”
She said she hoped both facilities would reopen on July 1 after a thorough cleanup, although costs would still have to be cut due to loss of earnings during the shutdown.
Andrew Hall, spokesperson for Biaza – British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums, said, “Biaza is clearly delighted that zoos and safari parks have been given the flexibility to reopen.
“But as a sector, we are not out of the woods. Aquariums are still closed and zoos and safari parks have taken off. For some zoos, especially those dependent on tourism, reopening will not be financially viable for them.
“It is useful today, but it is not the full answer to the challenges we face.
“We know that zoos, aquariums and safari parks will have a hard time, especially with limited access, so we still need government support, but we are very happy with today’s announcement.”
He added, “Zoos and aquariums in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still face major challenges and we will work hard to achieve positive results in these countries.”
The zoos in London and Whipsnade have taken measures for social distances, including strictly limited capacity, one-way routes, new signage and more hand-washing facilities to make the locations safe for visitors.
Edward Perry, general manager of Knowsley Safari, said: “Reopening safaris and zoos on June 15 is very good news, but we think it should have happened sooner.
“Knowsley Safari has been ready to be open to the public safely this past week and we still can’t understand why it’s good for people to jump in their cars to get Big Macs, but not to see our big cats .
“After being closed for such a long period of time, every day really counts towards ticket sales and generating much needed income to care for more than 700 animals.
“At least we now have clarity on when we can open and are very much looking forward to welcoming the audience again next week.”