Boris Johnson is set to shower Britons will holidays and haircuts on July 4 as he revises down the two-metre social distancing rule to breathe life back into the economy.
The UK holiday season will start within a fortnight when the Prime Minister gives the green light to hotels and vacation parks to reopen.
Although Downing Street says that no final decision has yet been taken on restarting the £130billion-a-year domestic tourism industry, The Mail on Sunday understands that Whitehall officials have been told to prepare for an announcement as early as Tuesday.
New rules are then likely to be sent to British tourism chiefs by the end of the week.
Mr Johnson is expected to announce the move as part of a package of measures to restart an economy devastated by Covid-19, including the long-anticipated cut in distancing guidance from two metres.
Instead, the government will adopt a ‘one-metre-plus’ rule to allow hard-hit sectors such as pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops to pull in more punters.
This next phase of lockdown loosening will also permit hairdressers to roll up the shutters on July 4 – subject to the wearing of face masks – in a boost for thousands of barbers and millions of shaggy-haired Britons in need of a trim.
It is hoped hotels and B&Bs reopening would give the economy the kick-start it needs as it slowly emerges from lockdown. Pictured: Brighton beach today
This next phase of lockdown loosening will also permit hairdressers to roll up the shutters on July 4 – subject to the wearing of face masks – in a boost for thousands of barbers and millions of shaggy-haired Britons in need of a trim. Pictured: Gatsby and Miller salon in Amersham demonstrates how it will operates when clear to reopen
Boris Johnson practices COVID-19 social distancing with schoolchildren on a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead, on Friday
As the rate of infection continues to wane, scientists have rubber-stamped the reopening salons as safe, in a change of tack cheered by the nation’s 30,000 hairdressers.
‘There’ll be a big rush to get an appointment when this is formally announced,’ a Whitehall source told the Sun, while cautioning that it will not herald a return to ‘normal’ as face coverings will be mandatory.
The move comes after Britain yesterday reported 128 new coronavirus deaths, the lowest Saturday figure since lockdown was imposed in March, bringing the total to 42,589.
The UK’s threat level was downgraded on Friday after scientists confirmed that the epidemic is shrinking by four per cent every day, and the reproduction R rate remained below one. Britain can also now test everyone showing symptoms.
As ministers’ attention turns from wrestling down the virus to rescuing the economy, they are poised to revise the two-metre rule down to ‘one-metre-plus’.
The halving permits people to keep just one metre apart as long as they take precautions such as meeting outside and with a face covering, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
Mr Johnson’s relaxation of the draconian restrictions will provide a lifeline to the beleaguered holiday industry, which will open for business also on July 4 – America’s Independence Day.
But it is understood that while hotels and bed and breakfasts will be allowed to open then, tourist sites with shared facilities, such as campsites, will have to wait longer before being given the green light.
The encouraging signs have fed a growing clamour from the tourism industry for a clear date from which it can start accepting bookings again – and clear guidance about how it will have to operate.
Millions of families are desperately waiting to find out whether they will be able to enjoy a summer holiday after spending three months in lockdown, while holiday bosses say that the limbo has cost them billions of pounds in lost revenue.
Government plans could see visitors taking staycations to places like Bournemouth beach, pictured
Ministers are also negotiating ‘air bridges’ with up ten countries, including France and Spain, to allow Britons to go abroad without being subject to the Government’s controversial 14-day quarantine when they return.
A scheme to test arrivals at airports for the virus is also being piloted, which could also help end blanket restrictions.
The move towards opening up tourism comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak draws up a package of measures to boost the wider economy, potentially including a cut to VAT, changes to National Insurance and tax perks for developers to encourage a house-building boom.
He said yesterday that Ministers would announce within days the results of a review into the two-metre rule, which would ‘make an enormous difference’ to businesses ‘keen to see a change’.
In other developments:
- The Government is planning new laws to protect British companies hit by the pandemic from takeovers by foreign companies;
- A Mail on Sunday investigation uncovers the chaos within the Government’s ‘test and trace’ programme;
- It has emerged that two rival vaccines being developed by British universities could be used together to provide lasting immunity to coronavirus.
Many Tory backbenchers are urging Downing Street to move swiftly to open up the British tourist industry.
Former Environment Minister Owen Paterson told this newspaper: ‘To have any hope of saving this summer season for our tourist industry, the Government must announce this week what the arrangements will be for reopening on July 4.
‘The tourism industry makes its money in the summer to get through the winter and we’re nearly halfway through that summer season already.
‘Ministers can’t leave our holiday parks, hotels and pubs in the dark any longer.
‘The Government must say this week that there will be a reduction in the social distancing guidance to one metre. Everything depends on that.
‘People are not going to go to restaurants, pubs and holiday parks in our beautiful tourist areas unless we cut the rule to one metre.
‘If we don’t, large numbers of hospitality businesses just will not survive. The Government must also say that the quarantine arrangements will end on July 4, too.’
Patricia Yates, chief executive of Visit Britain (pictured), said: ‘We need to know what the plan is. The lack of Government guidelines and that uncertainty around the date is causing a great deal of consternation within the industry’
Cornish MP Scott Mann, vice-chairman of Westminster’s all-party group on hospitality and tourism, said: ‘It is vital that we give tourism-based businesses as much time as possible to plan for reopening. I want to give those businesses the best possible opportunity to get some revenue in.’
Patricia Yates, chief executive of Visit Britain, said: ‘We need to know what the plan is. The lack of Government guidelines and that uncertainty around the date is causing a great deal of consternation within the industry.’
She said that reopening in July was ‘crucial’ but warned businesses in some of Britain’s best-loved tourism destinations will still struggle even then.
Visit Britain estimates that the tourism industry, which supports three-million jobs, will suffer a £42 billion loss of income this year because of the pandemic.
British holidaymakers spent £8.3 billion on overnight stays in the UK between July and September last year.
A Downing Street spokesman said that a final decision on restarting domestic tourism had not yet been made.
Holiday resorts on a knife edge: UK tourist bosses say government ‘dithering’ over social distancing rules has left staycations in limbo and left them racing to prepare for reopening in two weeks
Furious holiday industry bosses are warning that they may not be ready to reopen on July 4 because of the Government’s ‘dithering’ about what safety measures they will have to put in place.
Millions of families are waiting desperately to find out whether they will be able to head to holiday parks, B&Bs and hotels this summer.
But Ministers were coming under fire last night for failing to tell tourism businesses what rules they will have to follow if lockdown rules are relaxed in 13 days’ time, such as whether they will have to maintain two-metre distancing.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said: ‘The Government could by now have issued guidelines. We’re frustrated at being treated like children. It’s like we can’t be trusted.’
The confusion comes as the head of Britain’s £130 billion-a-year tourism industry warned that the pandemic had left seaside resorts ‘on a knife edge’, and one of Britain’s largest holiday park operators said it was now ‘make or break’ time for the sector.
FAMILY FUN: Visitors splash around at Center Parcs’ resort in Normandy, which has been open for weeks and operates under distancing guidelines
But firms are still in the dark over crucial considerations, such as whether guests who fall ill will have to be quarantined for 14 days in their holiday properties, or whether hotel rooms would have to be kept unoccupied for 72 hours between bookings to prevent spreading the disease between guests. Patricia Yates, chief executive of Visit Britain, told The Mail on Sunday that the lack of Government guidelines was causing ‘consternation within the industry.’
‘Businesses take four weeks to open up and many are gearing up and hoping they are doing the right thing,’ she said. ‘The industry is hoping they see the guidance this week – businesses need some time to understand it and implement it.’
The UK tourism sector, which supports three million jobs, made £90 million a day from staycations last summer.
Ms Yates said that it was ‘crucial’ for the holiday firms to reopen next month but warned businesses may struggle after a survey found that 28 per cent of Britons are not confident that they will take a holiday this summer.
She said: ‘There is a lot of enthusiasm to open but it’s going to be challenging to make a success of it. It’s going to be tough. Seaside resorts are on a knife edge.’
Unlike their parks in the UK, Center Parcs has been able to welcome visitors back to its resort in Normandy
The Prime Minister is reportedly set to halve the two-metre distancing rule next week, which would be good news for the hospitality industry because they will be able to serve more customers. However, a No 10 spokesman insisted that no decisions had been finalised.
Ros Pritchard of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association, said: ‘I don’t know what is going on in Westminster. They have had months to get this in place. The Government has got to publish the guidance now to give people reassurance about how they can reopen, and restore consumer confidence which has taken a huge knock. I don’t know what’s delaying them.’
Visit Britain estimates that the tourism industry, which supports three million jobs, will suffer a £42 billion loss of income this year because of the pandemic.
Parkdean Resorts, which runs 67 holiday parks, said: ‘We urgently need clarity from the Government to confirm that the hospitality sector can open on July 4, what facilities we can offer, and what the social distancing requirements will be. This is make or break time for our sector.’
DESERTED: Traffic cones block the entrance to the Center Parcs holiday site in Thetford, Norfolk, which will not open to guests for at least three more weeks
Becki Osborne, who runs the Polmanter campsite in St Ives, Cornwall, said: ‘We are trying to blindly prepare for reopening. It was months ago that July 4 was mentioned as a possible date. That’s now just two weeks away and we still don’t know what we are supposed to be doing.
‘We’re fully booked. What if we’re suddenly told only 70 per cent of pitches can be used? How and who do we cancel? Guests are asking us if they’re having a holiday this summer and we can’t tell them.’
Alistair Handyside, chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers, said it was ‘ludicrous’ that people ‘can crowd into Primark, and flock to busy beaches’ but not stay in caravans or holiday homes.
In Northern Ireland, self-catering accommodation, including caravans, will be allowed to reopen from Friday. Hotels are due to reopen on July 3 but spas and leisure facilities will remain closed.
The Welsh Assembly said holidays in ‘self-contained’ properties will be allowed from July 13 unless there is a spike in cases. The Scottish Government, which has released detailed guidance, said it hopes to welcome tourists from July 15.
However, not everyone is keen to resume tourism. Authorities in Cornwall fear an influx of visitors may overwhelm the local NHS as the population of 560,000 doubles each summer because of tourists.
Case study one: ‘What if someone falls ill in one of our holiday homes?’
Bridget Reps, 53, and Gina Saxton, 49, whose firm Breakwater Holidays manages 11 upmarket holiday homes around Bude and Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, welcomed news that they may be able to reopen on July 4.
However, they demanded to know what happens if someone falls ill while renting one of their homes.
Ms Reps said: ‘Under current rules someone who falls ill with coronavirus has the right to self-isolate in our property for 14 days. That’s a huge thing. It means the next guest can’t come.
‘What if a guest has bad weather during his stay? What if he then sees a good weather forecast and, as a result, decides he might have coronavirus?’ She added: ‘Most of our properties are larger houses. They’re often booked by two or three households.
‘So if current rules banning the mixing of households remains the same, do we have to police that minefield? What about cleaning protocols? We and our guests desperately need detailed, early guidance.’
Ms Res also warned that holiday businesses won’t be able to ‘just switch on’ with a couple of weeks’ notice and that she can’t afford casual cleaners until there is work for them.
ANXIOUS: Breakwater Holidays’ Bridget Reps and Gina Saxton
Case study two: ‘No one knows yet what the new normal will be’
QUESTIONS: Manager Ben Lambert
Bardsea Leisure park on the edge of the Lake District has been flooded with queries, including from younger people asking about caravan holidays.
Ben Lambert, the park’s head of human resources, said: ‘It is an absolute relief to hear that we’re likely to be allowed to reopen on July 4. But the Government needs to tell us more details.
‘We would like more clarity to find out if we can open facilities like the site toilets and our laundrette. No one knows yet what the new normal will be.
‘Nothing has been said by the Government about how we can operate.’ Mr Lambert also revealed that the park is already fully booked for the whole of July but shared facilities such as the shower blocks were likely to remain closed.
Case study three: ‘Social distancing rules must be lowered to 1m’
NEEDS DETAILS: David Scott
Hotel boss David Scott, who runs six properties in Suffolk, said that it would be a ‘great relief’ if he could welcome guests from July 4. But he added: ‘We need the Government to make it clear what the new rules will be.
‘I’d love to see social distancing reduced to one metre by the time we reopen. That will allow us to hugely increase the number of tables in our restaurants. We are also concerned that they might introduce a rule about keeping rooms empty for a day or so in between guests.’
He called for ‘clarity and certainty,’ adding: ‘We know that Waterstones takes books handled by shoppers away from public display for 72 hours after they are touched. If that rule was brought in for hotel rooms, it would have a massive effect on our business.’