Government to allow some outdoor attractions to reopen
Zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas will be some of the outdoor attractions allowed to reopen in England from Monday June 15, on the condition that strict social distancing measures are in place.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is likely to lay out further details during Wednesday’s daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street.
Numerous Conservative MPs have urged the government to allow zoos to reopen to ensure they survive the period, with industry heavyweights such as Chester Zoo and London Zoo falling on hard times financially during the crisis.
The government says that it has already pledged £14 million of support to keep zoos from financial collapse, while they have also been eligible to apply for other schemes such as business rate relief.
Under the conditions for reopening, zoos will not yet be able to open indoor exhibitions, while catering facilities such as cafes must be takeaway only.
Meanwhile, the government is confident about opening other outdoor attractions where people remain within vehicles due to the minimal risk of transmission.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: "People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.
"This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals."
Although the sector will be buoyed by the announcement, British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums spokesperson Andrew Hall warned that its troubles are not yet over.
Hall said: "Aquariums are still closed, and zoos and safari parks have taken a real hit. For some zoos, particularly those reliant on tourism, reopening isn't going to be financially viable for them.
He added that government support would still be required to help zoos, particularly with them having to limit capacity due to social distancing.
Hall continued: "Zoos and aquariums in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still be facing significant challenges and we will be working hard to achieve positive outcomes in these nations."
Business secretary Alok Sharma said on Tuesday that the country “continued to meet” the government’s five tests for lifting lockdown restrictions, with the outdoor attractions now set to open alongside non-essential shops with social distancing and hygiene procedures in place.
Sharma added that pubs, bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not reopen any earlier than July 4.