The cold, sharp winter of lockdown discontent is almost over with this week’s announcement of a roadmap out of the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the Prime Minister announced a series of dates that – contingent on four criteria being met – will see things slowly returning to normal, starting with March 8 when children will be allowed to go back to school and recreation on a one-to-one basis.
On March 29, the number of people we can see outdoors expands to a rule-of-six, or two households, with outdoor leisure facilities able to open once again and the end of the stay-at-home legal legislation.
Between April and June, depending on how things go, we will see a further series of gradual easing of restrictions in five-week steps, which, by June, could see the remaining restrictions removed.
Cornwall’s director for public health, Rachel Wigglesworth, said that each step of the lockdown would only be implemented if the data suggested it was possible. She said: “At each stage, they will examine the data to assess the impact of releasing the rules. It’s not absolute or set in stone. There will be four tests.
“One of these is vaccine roll-out and how that progresses as well as evidence that the vaccine roll-out is effective in reducing hospitals and death, another is infection rates at the time and making sure they don’t overwhelm hospitals and the final one is an assessment of the risk in any new variants that might appear and the impact they may have.”
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So what do we have to look forward to?
March 8 – Children back to school
The headline announcement in the first step of the easing of coronavirus restrictions is allowing children back to school, with schools and colleges opening again to all students and practical higher education courses.
We’ll also be allowed recreation or exercise outdoors with our households or on a one-to-one basis with someone else. Funerals will be allowed to have 30 guests while weddings are restricted to six people.
After months of remote learning for those children that weren’t permitted to attend school, which was restricted to a select group of children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable, Cllr Sally Hawken, portfolio holder for education at Cornwall Council, said she understood the anxieties of parents and young people.
In Cornwall Council’s weekly coronavirus briefing, she called on parents and schools to work together. She said: “While I’m sure there will be some that are delighted to go back and for their children to go back there will be others that are anxious. It may be the case that some young people are anxious too.
“So it’s crucial in those situations, families talk to their schools. It’s important the schools understand where the parents are coming from, it’s important that they are able to work together. We have some support mechanisms and materials that we are working with schools on which is about prioritising support for anxious young children and we’re expecting that to be the place with some. These are extraordinary times we’ve lived through and it’d be strange people didn’t find it such and having an impact. So, talk to the school as its the first priority so they understand your concerns and work together on ways that make it feel more comfortable for all concerned.”
March 29 – the rule of six outdoors and the end of “stay at home”
March 29 is set to see the end of stay-at-home law to be replaced with “minimise travel” guidance and the opportunity for us to see more than one person outdoors, meaning socially distanced reunions after months of seeing each other through video conferencing.
Despite the end of the stay-at-home order, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for environment and public protection, Cllr Rob Nolan, issued a warning to accommodation providers and second homeowners.
He warned them that they might face enforcement action if they travel down, as stays in self-contained accommodation and domestic properties cannot restart until April 12.
Saying that travel to a second home would not be considered essential travel, Cllr Nolan said: “The stay-at-home rule ends on the 29th of March, but it does talk of people continuing to work from home and minimising journeys. While we’re waiting for clarification we understand it will be for essential travel so we don’t regard people coming down to a second home as essential travel.
“Travel was a police matter the last time and I expect it to be again, and any holiday accommodation open in that period, whether its self-catering will be for us to investigate, and we will investigate as they’re not allowed to be open until April 12.”
No earlier than April 12 – Cornwall begins to reopen to visitors, pubs and restaurants can serve outdoors and some facilities such as leisure centres can reopen
Step two of the roadmap, set to take place no earlier than April 12 (subject to review) is expected to see the first steps towards the traditional holiday season which forms a centrepiece of Cornish life over the summer.
However, it won’t be completely straightforward, as hotels will have to remain shut and stays will be restricted to domestic properties (such as second homes) and self-contained accommodation (such as holiday chalets) and only with your household.
In addition, many amenities may still remain closed, such as closed toilet blocks at campsites and many communal entertainment facilities at holiday parks.
Patrick Langmaid, director of Mother Ivey’s Bay holiday park at Trevose, said he was worried for Cornish hospitality. He said: “[The plan] is okay if you’re doing what I’m doing. Self-catering accommodation can reopen on April 12. But it doesn’t mean it’s great news. A lot of people are going to be struggling. The devil will be in the detail.
“I worry about the whole of the Cornish hospitality. Pubs and restaurants are going to need support. I worry for pubs that are asked to open at reduced capacity. They’re better off shut and being supported until they can open fully.
“I’m going to be opening on April 12. But my customers are not going to get the Cornish experience they were expecting because the pubs and restaurants will be shut.
“We’d already decided that we’d open at reduced capacity, that 170 pitches are not going to be open. That’s 800 people.
“The general public is going to want social distancing for the rest of the season. We’re all emotionally scarred by the lockdown and what it means about protecting ourselves and our loved ones.”
Owners of other holiday parks and campsites in Cornwall have said they need more clarification about the rules changes. Read what they had to say here.
Another key bit of welcome news was the reopening of pubs and restaurants. However it’ll be restricted to the rule-of-six or two households and can only serve people outdoors.
Punters enjoyment of their freshly served pints may be limited by the infamous Cornish weather. Sally Pickles, owner of the Bowgie Inn in Crantock, said that might be the dampener on very good news. She said: “It is such positive news that we now have a date to focus on.
“Opening outside areas only does present some challenges, mainly due to the Cornish weather. Of course, it would be better for business if we could open fully, but we understand the difficult decisions that the government are having to make.
“We feel that our venue could open safely as we do have a lot of space and we are well prepared with our Covid safety measures, but the rule for pubs must apply to all.
“On the positive side, if the weather is good we are lucky enough to have plenty of outdoor space to trade from April 12 – May 17 with our large deck and beer garden overlooking the beach at Crantock.
“We are hoping for a busy summer in Cornwall so that businesses can make up for lost trade in the last 12 months.”
No earlier than May 17 – indoor visits to homes and pubs and reduced holiday restrictions
The next milestone on our long walk to freedom is no earlier than May 17, when the next step of rule relaxations is set to restart.
Among the things set to start again are indoor entertainment such as cinemas, up to 30 people meeting outdoors, domestic overnight stays not restricted to a household, the reopening of hotels and life events limited also to 30 people.
Large events can also take place except for pilot projects and will be subject to capacity limits and there is the possibility international travel can take place.
In addition, hotels and non-self-contained accommodation can reopen, including shared facilities such as at camp sites.
Cornwall’s tourism boss, Malcolm Bell of Visit Cornwall, welcomed the announcement. He said: “It is a good plan. What we are worried about is that self-catering can open but that there’s nowhere for guests to eat or drink.
“There are 30,000 people on furlough at the moment. It is good news [for them].
“We had 2.5m people down last year. It worked, we know we can operate safely.”
However, Mr Bell said that there will be new challenges in managing tourism in Cornwall. He explained that he is worried about people who may decide to open their own temporary campsites on fields if the demand gets really high.
His message to anyone considering this is: “Make sure you comply with the rules and make sure you consider what your neighbours think.”
About international travel, which will not resume before May 17, he said: “We won’t see many people from other countries. It will depend on what the other countries do.”
But there is good news for Cornwall residents as Mr Bell added: “All of us locals will have Easter, April, May and the whole of June before the crowds arrive. It will give us time to enjoy Cornwall.”
No earlier than June 21 – the end of restrictions
June 21 is the date we’re all eagerly anticipating with summer rapidly approaching. It is the date which we all hope is the end of restrictions. Venues can open at normal capacity, including nightclubs that haven’t seen crowds since March 2020, wedding restrictions will be removed and no legal limits on social contact. This is subject to review.
It could see the start of some of Cornwall’s summer of festivals too.
Boardmasters, set to take place between August 11 and August 15, has teased that it might go ahead. Sharing pictures of previous scenes at the festival on its Twitter account, it teased: “Light at the end of the tunnel. See you at the beach.”
Some Eden Sessions looks set to take place in 2021 too, although official confirmation is yet to happen. This is because the majority of this year’s gigs, including the Idles and Bryan Adams, happens after June 21.
Perranporth’s Tunes in the Dunes could move to later in the summer, having been scheduled to take place on the weekend of June 18 to 20.
The chain reaction of June 21 being the date means that Diana Ross fans could get to enjoy their night out, as that’s set to take place on June 29. Bryan Adams is set to follow on July 5 with the Idles on July 11 and the Script on July 14.
However, Lionel Richie fans and those hoping to see My Chemical Romance will have to await further word as their gigs are scheduled for June 9 and June 15, respectively, which is before the June 21 potential date and thus would be limited to capacity restrictions. So it’s possible they may get moved.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t!