Southampton reopens after 16 months of Covid rules

RESIDENTS were urged to act responsibly and “stay safe” when Southampton reopens.

To date, the country has reached the fourth step in the government’s roadmap to exit lockdown, which means rules such as face masks and social distancing are no longer mandatory.

After 16 months of restrictions, Southampton and Hampshire are reopening with clubs and events capable of restarting.

But residents have been urged to stay safe as infections continue to rise across the country.

Dr Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council, said: “Today marks a milestone for Southampton in almost 16 months with the lifting of the COVID-19 legal restriction.

“But as a city, we still have a lot of work to do if we are to make this transition smoothly, as COVID-19 will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

“While there is no longer a need to legally enforce rules such as face coverings and social distancing, we all need to use our judgment and common sense to protect ourselves.”

Although no longer provided for by law, residents are advised to continue to wear face coverings in crowded spaces or on public transport and to try to keep a safe distance from others.

Southampton City Council Chief Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry, however, said it was “good news that the successful roll-out of the vaccination process has brought us to this stage”.

He added: “Now we can start living with Covid but exercise personal responsibility and decision making so that we can fit some form or normal into our lives while also being aware of the risks.

“It’s also important that we do all we can as a city to jumpstart our economy and protect the 7,800 people who were on leave at the end of May and protect the jobs they come back to.”

The council chief added that with free Sunday and evening parking fees in the city, as well as investments in deep cleaning, the authority is working to ‘get Southampton moving’.

Southampton City Council Deputy Head and Cabinet Member for Growth Councilor Jeremy Moulton added: “The transition period over the next few months is really critical and we are not taking anything for granted.

“As a council, we are doing all we can to support jobs and businesses, especially during this time when we are returning to normal lifestyles.”

To date, businesses in the city have been able to expand their capacity and the area’s Business Improvement District Executive Director, Go! Southampton, Giles Semper said: “We are delighted to see the city open even more, especially in the evenings when concert halls, clubs and bars can reopen at full capacity.

“There is so much to see and do in the city. We encourage anyone visiting the city to check the policies of individual companies. We look forward to taking what we hope will be the final step in foreclosure and recovery. ”

The operator of The Joiners concert hall on St Mary’s Street also shared his relief ahead of his first standing gig since the pandemic crippled the music industry.

Ricky Bates described the pandemic as “the darkest time in 53 years of music history” and added he was “relieved” after the government confirmed all venues can open.

He said: “We just want to make sure everyone feels safe on the site.”

Ricky has been forced to cancel and move the dates of more than 100 concerts since the start of the pandemic.

Elsewhere in Eastleigh, Market Street and High Street have finally reopened after more than a year of closure for social distancing.

Since the traffic order was implemented in June 2020, calls for the reopening of roads have been made with a group creating a petition against the closures.

A Council spokesperson said: “Pedestrians and drivers are reminded to be very vigilant and be very careful as we all get used to the reopening of roads after more than a year of closure.

“The council remains committed to working with local businesses, residents and other organizations to improve downtown Eastleigh. ”

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