Each week I am able to report in this column further steps in the Government’s roadmap to gradually reopen businesses and community facilities which had to close during the long, hot, weeks of total lockdown.
Our High Streets in Brentwood and Ongar are now looking busier, with pubs, restaurants and hairdressers opening up last week, and beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close-contact services from Monday this week providing they adhere to COVID-Secure guidelines. I was out and about in the constituency on “Independence Day” on 4th July and there was a palpable air of excitement from all those who were opening up again for the first time in months.
There are still some limitations - certain types of high risk treatment, such as threading and facial treatments, are advised against at this stage. Further details are available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/close-contact-services. I appreciate these limitations are deeply upsetting for those who need treatments to deal with the effects of conditions like PCOS, and for those businesses whose entire work is based around the face. Please be assured the Government is aware of your frustration and is doing all it can to allow you to open again as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Government has made it very clear sports will only be able to resume once their return to play guidelines have been developed in line with government guidance. Outdoor water parks and swimming pools will also be able to open in England from this weekend. To further support the British people in getting active again, from Saturday 25 July, we will allow the safe and COVID-Secure reopening of indoor swimming pools, gyms, fitness and dance studios, leisure centres, and other indoor sports venues and facilities. Further easements will only be allowed if it is safe to do so in line with public health guidance.
Performers are finding new ways to entertain through outdoor performances, although it’s still not the right time to get audiences back into venues like theatres and concert halls. However, rehearsals and performances for broadcast are getting underway – it’s just a case of being confident in keeping an audience safe and socially distanced.
As ever, we must proceed cautiously, to avoid a second peak which could overwhelm the NHS. These changes will be conditional on our ability to control the virus and respond effectively to outbreaks, as we have done so far. This virus has not gone away. We still need to stay alert, maintain social distancing, keep washing hands, and follow any instructions received from NHS Test and Trace.
For those of you who have been able to save a bit of money during lockdown, please go out and spend now - the economy needs your cash. And, if and when you can, please buy local. As ever, please get in touch if I can help with anything.