The Prime Minister will announce on Sunday the struggling businesses are to be permitted to welcome customers along as strict social-distancing measures are in place on their premises. Boris Johnson‘s green light for gardeners will be among the first lockdown restrictions relaxed in his “road map” to be outlined in a televised address to the nation.
But ahead of the speech, ministers yesterday continued to insist the initial changes to the Government rules designed to curb the spread of the killer virus will be “limited”.
A Downing Street source said: “As outdoor businesses, garden centres and nurseries are well-placed to trade with a low risk of spreading the virus as long as social-distancing rules are in force.
“We recognise this has been a particularly difficult time for this industry, given the time of year. Hopefully this will give the industry a boost.”
Garden centres will be expected to take appropriate measures to enforce social distancing including laying tape on the floor to guide customers and providing shielding for staff at tills.
They will also not be allowed to open cafes or playground areas.
The delay of the reopening until Wednesday rather than from Monday for garden centres across England is designed to give staff time to prepare premises for readmitting customers.
Yet the Welsh Government yesterday sought to steal a march on Westminster by announcing that garden centres in the principality will be allowed to open from Monday, along with council-run libraries and waste collection facilities.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement of a series of “small and modest adjustments” to the rules was another sign of the growing splits over the pace of exit from lockdown in different parts of the UK.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned the public not to expect a major relaxation of social-distancing restrictions when the Prime Minister unveils his “road map” at 7pm tomorrow.
“The situation remains exactly as it has been for several weeks, that is people should be staying at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. That hasn’t changed,” Mr Dowden said in a television interview
“Once again we have that temptingly sunny bank holiday weekend coming up but, please, people should not be leaving home except for the limited reasons we’ve already set out.”
Mr Dowden insisted the Government will move by “tentative steps” in altering the rules.
“Expect limited moves to begin with and then, over time, if those are starting to work, we can start to go further and what we will be doing is setting out the different steps we could take further along the path so people know where we’re going.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Friday criticised the Government over the surge in coronavirus deaths in care homes.
“The crisis in our care homes has gone on for too long and we must do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, many of whom protected our country in its darkest hour,” he wrote in a newspaper article.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea said nine Chelsea Pensioners had died of coronavirus-related conditions
But Mr Dowden insisted the Government was getting a “grip” on the issue.
“We are starting to grip this and it is starting to have an effect,” the former Cabinet Office minister said.
“So while the death rate remains too high, we have seen in the latest figures the number of deaths in care homes start to fall.
“This is a real priority for the Government.”
Mr Dowden also confirmed he would be holding a meeting next week with football authorities, including the Premier League, to determine whether matches could start to be played behind closed doors.
Downing Street officials on Friday reiterated that the Prime Minister would exercise “maximum caution”.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is clear that we are going to adopt an approach of maximum caution.”
He acknowledged there could be some “divergence” between different parts of the UK in the pace of the exit from lockdown.
“We understand there could be circumstances where there is divergence and when there is evidence that supports it.
“We remain committed to taking a four-nations approach wherever possible,” he said.
The spokesman also said ministers were in talks with transport operators to determine when services could be increased in “preparation” for commuters returning to work.
“The reality is we are examining a range of options for how transport can respond to support the UK’s recovery in a timely way,” said the PM’s spokesman, when asked about reports ministers were targeting May 18 for rail services being increased.
“But this will only be done when it is safe to do so and would be in preparation, not anticipation of, any change in current advice.”
Published at Fri, 08 May 2020 20:39:00 +0000