Dacorum businesses react with caution to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions
Hertfordshire public health chief asks people to be considerate of others as everyone will move out of lockdown at their own pace
Businesses in Dacorum have reacted to the Prime Minister's 'Freedom Day' on July 19 with owners taking a cautious approach to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
On Monday, July 12, Boris Johnson confirmed that England would go ahead with the lifting of rules next Monday, meaning the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some enclosed public places will be removed.
The news also means that nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and limits on capacity will be removed for all venues and events.
Hertfordshire County Council's director of Public Health Jim McManus is encouraging people to be considerate of others as everyone will move out of lockdown at their own pace.
He said said: “While many people will be excited at the prospect of restrictions being lifted on 19 July, others will be fearful or apprehensive.
"We all need to be kind to each other as we move into this next phase.
"The virus has not gone away, in fact cases are rising and it’s important to recognise that everyone’s circumstances are different and what feels comfortable to one person might not feel that way to another.
"The most important thing right now is for us all to keep doing the things which stop infection. Get vaccinated if you are 18 or over, give people space, wear face coverings in crowded indoor areas, ventilate your workplaces and social spaces, and if you have symptoms get tested and self-isolate.
"These measures have kept us safe and will keep us safe still.
“Covid-19 won’t end when the rules change, and we need to keep being sensible – as almost everyone has been for the last 15 months – and keep each other safe.
“Let’s keep looking out for one another and recognise that we’re all going to be moving forward at our own pace.”
The Gazette spoke to some businesses in Dacorum about their approach to the lifting of restrictions.
She said: "Over the past 12 months, the teams at Alchemy & I, Cecily Spa and Koha Skin Clinics have worked incredibly hard under the restrictions to uphold outstanding hygiene and safety standards to protect both their colleagues and their clients.
"As we take these next steps forward, we want to transition at a pace that’s comfortable for both our teams and our clients.
"Our teams will all be given a personal choice as to whether they’d like to continue wearing face coverings while working.
"We will also not be requiring our clients to wear face coverings while in the salons.
"However, the comfort of our clients is our top priority, so if they would feel more comfortable with their therapist or stylist wearing a mask, we will be more than happy to wear face coverings during their appointment."
Indoor soft play
Helen Whittington who owns DJ's Play Park in Jarman Park with her husband Mark, is also pleased that restrictions are easing but has some concerns.
She said: "We are pleased that the restrictions are easing, but equally there are some concerns as cases are rising and the onus is put onto businesses.
"At DJ’s Play we have asked our team for their preferences and we will keep screens up, but face coverings will be personal choice - therefore, the main contact points serving customers at reception and café, a barrier still offers some protection.
"More tables, capacity and parties will be added, but only increase numbers around 25 per cent on where we are with online bookings. We will leave out ball pits and review at a later date.
"We hope everyone respects each others space as indoor play is no longer crowded places and now cleaner for customers!
"The whole 18 months has been fretful and unfair with restrictions and grants, we only hope to survive this and bring birthday parties back - that have been long awaited by children and their friends and families.
"We have managed to make improvements to the business, as a consequence of Covid, in terms of the crowdfunder and being cashless, having closed for cleaning, laser sessions and have relaunched our menu with homemade traybakes and freshly baked cupcakes.
"Fortunately we’ve managed to retain staff, using flexible furlough and even recruited more for our future restored party business!"
The couple also run DJ’s Play Zone in Berkhamsted and DJ's Play Jungle in St Albans.
These are the changes you can expect:
- Activity numbers will return to pre-covid numbers for all activities.
- Activities and equipment moved to accommodate social distancing in most cases, will be returned to their original locations
- As prior to the pandemic, gym members will now not be required to book their session before visiting the centre. However, the gym will remain bookable for ‘pay as you go’ and junior members via our app and website
- Swimming sessions and most other activities should still be booked online and via the app
- Covid one-way systems will be removed within all areas of the centres
- Hand sanitiser will remain available in all centres and staff will continue with the increased cleaning regimes.
- Changing rooms will be open for those that want to use them
- More than one person can now attend with a child for their swimming lessons
Steve Cox, Area Contract Manager at Everyone Active, commented: “We are delighted to hear we’ve now reached Step 4 on the ‘Roadmap to Reopening’.
"2020 and 2021 so far have proven incredibly challenging for us all and has put things into perspective for many of us.
"As an industry and a business that has been hard hit by the pandemic, we are extremely grateful for the ongoing support from all our customers and our local authority partner, Dacorum Borough Council.
“The latest government announcement is a welcomed message for us all and it means we will now start to make some changes to the operation of our centres over the coming weeks.
"However, we do take the safety of our customers and colleagues extremely seriously.
" As such, we will continue with our enhanced cleaning regimes and hand sanitiser will still be available within all our centres.
“Full details of our changes can be found at www.everyoneactive.com/covid-information.”
The centre manager of Riverside Shopping Centre is asking shoppers to continue to observe safe distancing and individual shops in the centre will make their own arrangements.
Ian Welland, Centre Manager said: "Following the Government’s announcement concerning restrictions being eased from 19th July, at Riverside Shopping Centre we hope shoppers and visitors will continue to observe safe distancing particularly at busy times and wear face coverings in our car park and lift lobbies as a precaution.
"We shall of course, continue to provide hand sanitisers throughout. Our individual shops, cafes and restaurants will be making their own arrangements in line with the Government’s guidance."
Humphrey Mwanza, The Marlowes’ General Manager: “It is really positive to hear from the Government’s recent announcement that restrictions are lifting on the 19th July.
"Protecting the health and safety of guests and staff remains our number one priority, and we will encourage the wearing of face coverings, keeping a safe distance and washing hands regularly whilst visiting the shopping centre as we continue to respect and protect each other.
"We will keep certain measures in place to do our part to help control the spread of the virus for the foreseeable future, including enhanced cleaning regimes for all areas and hand sanitising points at all entrances.
"We realise some people may be anxious, particularly about visiting busy places, and will continue to inform the community about the quietest times to shop via our social media channels and website.
"As we ease out of restrictions we are mindful that everyone will be moving at different paces and will appreciate if everybody shows consideration towards other guests and centre staff over the coming months.”
Phil Abbott at Brunch Café, said: "Our staff and customers safety is our priority and therefor we will be keeping a number of measures in place.
"We will continue with the one way system, table service, screening between tables and our staff will be wearing masks when taking customers orders from customers."
Hertfordshire Libraries will be operating under new guidelines from Monday, July 19, following the Government’s planned lifting of Coronavirus restriction across the country.
These changes mean that libraries will return to a more normal way of service, as was in place prior to the introduction of lockdown restrictions in March 2020.
The following changes will take place from Monday 19 July in libraries across Hertfordshire:
> Visitors will no longer be required to limit the amount of time they spend in a library
> Visitors will be able to freely access more study spaces and seating areas, in addition to accessing their libraries’ free public Wi-Fi via their own devices
> Public computers will now be available both on a drop-in basis and via a pre-booking system
> Community meeting rooms will be re-opened for hire.
In order to ensure that Hertfordshire Libraries can fully re-open in the safest way possible, library visitors are encouraged to wear a face-covering and to maintain a respectful distance from others.
Customers are advised to visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/libraries or download the Library App to check for services and opening times for their local library.
Specsavers says that it will be retaining its safety measures in-store and during home visits when lockdown restrictions are eased on Monday.
With the easing of restrictions making many people anxious about venturing out and about again, Specsavers wants to encourage people not to delay their eye and hearing tests further.
Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, said: "We want our customers and colleagues to feel safe at all times, so in line with guidance from the NHS, we are keeping safety measures in place, including the wearing of face coverings, unless there is a medical exemption.
"This includes maintaining social distancing in stores, continuing to use PPE and sanitising all testing equipment and frames before and after each use.
"We are also advising stores to keep their doors open whenever possible to improve ventilation and although card payments are still preferred, cash payments will be accepted too."
Specsavers will continue to operate its Ask The Expert chat function on its website and its RemoteCare service, which enable customers to speak to an expert from the comfort of their home via video call or phone.
To find out more about the safety measures in stores or to book an appointment visit www.specsavers.co.uk.
When step 4 takes place:
- You will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. There will also be no limits on the number of people you can meet.
- In order to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, you should limit the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with, and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts.
- Meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces.
- The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. However, the Government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer.
- The requirement to wear face coverings in law will be lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
- There will no longer be limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There will be no requirement for table service at life events, or restrictions on singing or dancing. You should follow guidance for weddings and funerals to reduce risk and protect yourself and others.
- There will no longer be restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship.
How do you feel about the decision to relax restrictions? If you run a local business what stance are you taking? Let us know by emailing [email protected].