Businesses hope for good weather and budget help as PM's roadmap revealed

Steve Munson (inset) runs the Gull Inn and will reopen with a new roof terrace and menu. Picture: St

Steve Munson (inset) runs the Gull Inn and will reopen with a new roof terrace and menu. Picture: Steve Munson/James Randle - Credit: Steve Munson/James Randle

Businesses say they have been deflated by Boris Johnson's road map announced today - after being told that non-essential retail and hospitality will be allowed to open from April.

Boris Johnson has laid out his plan to "cautiously but irreversibly" ease the country out of lockdown

He has broken his plan out into a series of steps.

And businesses will have to keep their shutters down for months yet, with the first easing of non-essential retail lockdown beginning no earlier than April 12 with the opening of all retail, outdoor hospitality and attractions, as well as personal care services and gyms. 

Mr Johnson confirmed that there will be no curfew or substantial meal rule in place.

Step three, which will be no earlier than May 17, will see two households of up to six people meeting indoors, as well as indoor entertainment and some large events reinstated and international travel. 

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By June 21 there will be no limit on social contacts, and nightclubs and larger events can recommence.

All of the above are subject to review based on the R-rate, vaccine rollout and case figures.

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"They haven't really considered if it's going to rain," said Steve Munson, landlord at the Gull Inn at Framingham Pigot. 

"There will be a lot of businesses that look at the weather in April and think it's not worth putting up a gazebo in the wind and the rain - a lot of places will make the decision to stay closed until it warms up.

"The game changer is that two households can mix - albeit outdoors. If you can have two couples sitting down for dinner outside that's when you start seeing the revenue. 

"What makes me nervous is that currently we haven't got much news on the extension of financial support and we may be waiting until the budget to hear more about that.

"Currently it's extended until the end of April but many hospitality businesses will wait until May - it will be a question of how long they can afford to hold out."

Other businesses on the high street, although keen to reopen, are resigned to the fact that slow and steady may be the only way to recover fully. 

Leanne Fridd, co-owner of independent bookstore Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in the city centre, said: "This announcement seems to be much more measured which is reassuring, as the continued cycle of opening and closing of the business is the most difficult for us.

"We had been imagining that we would not be able to reopen until around mid April and this seems to confirm this.

"We are desperate to reopen but not at the cost of people's health, however we await the chancellor's budget and hope that this offers more financial security."

Some businesses welcomed aspects of the measures, particularly those which allowed for more human contact with vulnerable members of society. 

Boris Johnson confirmed that every care home resident will be able to nominate a single named visitor who can come in for a regular visit.

Daya Thayan is the chief executive of Kingsley Health Care, which operates care homes across Norfolk and Suffolk. 

His staff and residents were told that for the first time in months visitors would be able to hold their loved one's hands.

“This is welcome news indeed," he said.

"However, we must maintain caution and test and trace is an integral part of keeping any virus spread at bay; also we need to be seeing through the second dose for all of our residents."

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