Planned events and reopening of businesses in West Berkshire after coronavirus restrictions eased
More than 125 public events are planned in the district as the country continues to emerge from the national coronavirus lockdown.
Today (Monday) sees one of the biggest easing of restrictions this year, with up to 30 people now able to meet outside and two families or six people able to gather inside.
Domestic hospitality, hotels, theaters and cinemas are among the businesses preparing to reopen, while high school students will no longer be required to wear face masks in classrooms or common areas.
And finally – after more than 14 months – it is again possible to hug your family and friends.
Kamal Bahia, chairman of the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board engagement group, said it was an “incredible” moment.
“Starting Monday, we can kiss a loved one; how incredible, ”she added. “It’s about staying active, while maintaining all of the Covid criteria, while enjoying all the positive things that we have achieved.
“Don’t forget your hands, your face, your space and your fresh air and if you haven’t had your jab go ahead and grab it.”
On May 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country will move to step 3 of the government’s planned roadmap to emerge from the recovery.
Ms Bahia added, “Mental Health Awareness Week is all about connecting with nature, so we try to encourage people to meet their friends and loved ones outdoors.
“Also try to increase your activity slowly, especially if you are not going out. Take your time, do it at your own pace.
“This is the first year we have to deal with something like this, so make sure you are considerate of others.”
The district council also urged people to exercise caution as it plans to ease Covid restrictions.
At a meeting of the West Berkshire Council’s local outbreak engagement committee on Monday, it was revealed that local groups and businesses had asked to host 130 public events. These included sports montages, exhibitions and theatrical productions.
Board members received a presentation from the Director of the Public Protection Partnership, Sean Murphy, who stressed that the board’s role is more to advise event planners than to formally regulate them.
While large gatherings were to be allowed, the council could only ban events with an excessive turnout or events of a nature inappropriate for the conditions of the pandemic.
Mr. Murphy said: “Public trust is at the heart of it all.
“The organizers want everything to go well, they want them to take off.
“But the public has to be confident that they are properly organized, and then the risk has to be properly managed.
“We see ourselves as part of this whole process to give that public confidence.”
The council was also keen to encourage people to continue with regular testing as the district begins to open up again.
Matthew Pearce, Director of Communities and Wellness, added: “Obviously, regular testing is really important.
“I think sometimes when people think the prevalence is low, they don’t need to have asymptomatic tests.
“But in fact, we have to keep it low – so test kids and adults regularly who will play a really important role.
“When you’re on the go, obviously wear a face mask.
“So all of these things that we’ve been doing in the last nine months, we have to keep doing them.”
Among the events expected to return is the Newbury Artisan Market.
Starting May 30, traders will return to Northbrook Street and Bartholomew Street between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for the last Sunday of each month.
Newbury BID – the organizers of the event – stressed that a new user-friendly layout for Covid will protect visitors and that social distancing will be observed at all times.
Hundreds of companies are operating in the area surrounding the market, and it is hoped that the event will stimulate them during the transition to normality.
Newbury BID Operations Manager Alison Drummond said: “We are working closely with the West Berkshire Council Public Protection team as the health and safety of these activities is paramount and we are confident that the Now is the time to start reintroducing these wonderful and much loved markets.
“While the markets have been allowed to operate for the duration of the lockdown, it has been a work in progress to get our craft market back up and running, but it will be worth it.”