PRIME Minister Boris Johnson this week unveiled his plan to exit lockdown which could see Winchester and the rest of the country return to close to normal life by June.

Business leaders and civic chiefs in the district were largely reassured by Mr Johnson’s road map which will be split into four separate steps – starting with pupils returning to school on March 8.

On the same day socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be allowed.

On March 29 larger groups of up to six people or two households could be allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

Restrictions are expected to be lifted for shops, hairdressers, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens, on April 12.

The Wonston Arms pub has been named as the best pub in the Wessex region by Camra.

The Wonston Arms pub has been named as the best pub in the Wessex region by Camra.

Owner and landlord of the Wonston Arms Matthew Todd said: “For me being a wet only pub, and there being no rules attached to eating food is a huge relief so people can come socialise in a group of six or as a family, sit outside and enjoy a nice social drink.

“I am hugely relieved for my customers because that is what they have missed. It might sound small, but it is part of what a wet pub is.”

Matthew said that the pub would be opening on April 12 and to have a firm date to look forward to, he added: “It feels real, feels a relief and the sacrifices that we have all had to put up with were needed to get us to this point.”

Selina Jogaloo, owner of PW Beauty in Alresford, said: “PW Beauty are delighted that we have been given a provisional reopening date of 12th April and that the PM has acknowledged the beauty industry specifically. Requests to be added to our priority booking list have been flooding in and we are ready for a strong re-launch in the spring. We are hoping to recruit more therapists and expand our salons as we put this past year behind us.”

On May 17, two households or groups of up to six people may be allowed to mix indoors and crowds of up to 10,000 in the largest venues will be allowed at performances and sporting events.

The date has been welcomed by Play to the Crowd, which runs the Theatre Royal, after it faced closure last year.

Deryck Newland, Chief Executive of Play to the Crowd

Deryck Newland, Chief Executive of Play to the Crowd

Chief executive Deryck Newland said: “We are pleased to see the Government’s roadmap out of the latest lockdown and relieved to have been provided with a ‘no earlier than’ date.

“This will allow us to plan to a time frame rather than just holding a finger in the wind. Whilst this is good news there are caveats at each stage of this roadmap and we are mindful that audiences may be less keen to return by the timescales laid out.

“There is a lot to digest so we will take our time to discuss the best way for us to move forward, internally and with partners, visiting companies and artists.”

“We will also look carefully at what yesterday’s announcement might mean to this year’s Hat Fair festival with a view to making a final decision on its format and timing over the next few weeks.

“With this continued enforced closure of our building we eagerly await the Chancellor’s budget next week to hear what additional support packages for organisations like ours will be put in place.

“Thankfully, due to the extraordinary generosity of our local community last summer in response to our Survival Appeal, we are able to plan for reopening with confidence and can’t wait to welcome back audiences for live performance later this year.”

Mr Johnson unveiled that from June 21 all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, with larger events given the go-ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.

Steve Brine in House of Commons, March 2020

Steve Brine in House of Commons, March 2020

But Winchester’s MP Steve Brine questioned Mr Johnson on his decision to delay the opening of hospitality venues.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Brine said: “I want to welcome and to raise a hallelujah, along with parents and children, for the good sense of schools returning for all pupils from 8 March. It is the right thing to do on so many levels.

“May I ask the Prime Minister, however, what evidence has driven his decision that outdoor sport—not in-school outdoor sport, but wider outdoor sport—for those same children cannot go ahead for another month?

“Furthermore, can he say why, after all the good work that they did last year to create Covid-secure environments, restaurants and cafés face another three months before they can open in any meaningful way? What is the evidence that he has seen that has convinced him to make that decision today?”

Lucille Thompson.

Lucille Thompson.

Following the PM’s announcement Winchester City Council leader Lucille Thompson said: “For now, England is still in a national lockdown, so as we progress through the steps and the rounds of tests that will herald each progression to the next phase towards a more liberated daily life, we will need to keep up our efforts.

“In the meantime, at the city council we will continue to do everything we can to support our district during this time, maintaining both our day-to-day services and our Covid-19 support. And to all the public servants - whether you work on the frontline for the NHS or emergency services; work for support organisations; are a community volunteer; or have recently trained to help with the vaccine roll out or are contributing in other ways during this crisis, thank you for all that you are doing to help keep our district running.

“To our residents and businesses – thank you for your continued patience – and do contact your council if you need help, we remain here for you. We will all, for now, continue to stay at home where possible, following the current guidance until the first set of new guidelines come into effect – at the earliest, on 8th March.”

Flick Drummond has been appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions

Flick Drummond has been appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions

Meon Valley MP Flick Drummond added: “This very well-prepared road map is most welcome and I support its caution because we all understand we cannot go into lockdown again but we must also ensure we minimise infection rates.

“It has always been the case a balance has had to be struck between our freedoms, the economy and life back to normal while protecting the NHS and those who are vulnerable.

“The difference now is just how well our vaccine rollout has gone and this weapon in our armoury means we have the chance of returning to normal by 21st June, subject to the tests being met each time at each stage and our vigilance around new Covid variants.

“I am also pleased the government has committed itself to continue support to all those who need it. These will be long months for businesses hit by restrictions but the roadmap has given clarity to everyone with dates that can be worked towards, if the tests are met.

“We have some to go but there is far more good news now than 12 months ago.”