Prime Minister announces phased easing of lockdown

Boris Johnson announced to MPs the new four-step plan to ease lockdown today (22 February) and said he could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June.

Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality will reopen on 12 April in England if strict conditions are met under the plans set out by the PM. Up to six people from separate households could be able to meet in beer gardens from that date too.

If all goes to plan then from 12 April non-essential retail will open, along with hairdressers and public buildings such as libraries and museums; outdoor settings including alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks; indoor leisure such as swimming pools and gyms and self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites.

From 17 May, the rule of six will be abolished outdoors and instead replaced with with limit to 30 people meeting outdoors and two households mixing indoors. Cinemas, hotels, performances and sporting events reopen – though social distancing would remain.

The fourth and final step from 21 June will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened – including nightclubs.

“Data led not date led”

The Government has allowed five weeks between each stage so scientists can assess the data on the effects of each stage of lockdown easing and give the public a week’s notice of confirmation that the next stage will go ahead as planned. The phased easing will be led by “data not dates” the Prime Minister said. At each stage they will look at whether the vaccination programme is progressing as it should be, how hospitals are faring, whether the rate of infection is likely to cause anotehr surge and what’s happening with the development of new variants of the virus.

Boris stressed that after the first step the subsequent stages of reopening could be subject to delay.

The Chiswick Calendar spoke to some of Chiswick’s entertainments venues to get their reaction.

Images above: Chiswick Cinema exterior under construction, Lyn Goleby

Chiswick Cinema

The timing of Boris’s roadmap could work well for the new Chiswick Cinema. According to Boris’s roadmap, cinemas are due to open on 17 May.

Work began on Chiswick Cinema in 2019, and proceeded well until the builders were halted by Covid in March 2020. The contractors weren’t able to work again for over a month.

The project director of the new Chiswick Cinema, Lyn Goleby, told The Chiswick Calendar in 2020 that the cinema would be ready to open in the spring 2021, coinciding with the planned release of the new James Bond film, No Time To Die, which had been also been postponed until April 2021. (Now the film has been pushed back even further to October 2021).

Lyn told us on Monday that all the main focus of the cinema will be on how the film calendar starts to come together. With certain movies, such as No Time To Die and Suicide Squad 2 postponed until later on in the year, Chiswick Cinema will be able to catch most 2021’s big blockbusters. But movies such as Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson might just slip through the net for them.

Images above: Headliners Comedy Club (picture taken before the pandemic), Simon Randall 

Headliners Comedy Club

Live theatre is also planned to restart on 17 May, with people from two households able to meet up indoors and indoor entertainment including theatres, play areas, concert halls and sports stadia opening up again.

Headliners Comedy Club is based in the Boston Room at the back of the George IV pub on Chiswick High Road and has put on top level stand up comedy there for nearly 20 years.

Organiser Simon Randall told us:

“It’s roughly what I was expecting. Live entertainment seems to have made an enormous financial sacrifice on behalf of the rest of the country. It’s us that seem to have borne the brunt of everything and unfortunately we have not been in the receipt of any of the help, the billions and billions of pounds which has been sprayed around left right and centre to everybody except us.

“We’re the ones who do all the sacrificing and we get the least back, which is a terrible shame.

“The whole purpose of us shutting back in March last year, Boris said: “nobody should suffer for doing the right thing for others” and the fact is because of deliberate decisions made by the Government we’ve suffered a lot in order to help others and I hope that’s addressed over the coming years. For example I don’t think live entertainment venues should be paying any VAT for the next 10 years, maybe even scrap it all together [for live performance venues].’

“There are a lot of ways the Government could pay us back for our enormous sacrifice and I certainly hope they do that, but sadly I doubt that they will.”

Image above: Chiswick Playhouse (taken before the pandemic), Fred Perry

Chiswick Playhouse

The Chiswick Playhouse is the small theatre above The Tabard pub. It produces its own in-house productions and works with other producers to bring ‘West End quality shows to West London, and at a fraction of the ticket price!’

Fred Perry, owner of Chiswick Playhouse told The Chiswick Calendar:

“From what we have heard so far, it looks like this is good news in terms of us being able to get back and welcoming audiences again. We’re really looking forward to doing that.

“We need to take a look at more of the detail about the phased opening that [the Prime Minister] has mentioned when more details are made available. But essentially it’s great, we have a programme that is ready to go which we have been building throughout the lockdown as well as preparing for whenever it would be that we can re-open.

“The phrase in the speech was open with ‘some limitations depending on capacity’ which I don’t fully know what that means but once we understand the detail of that then that will help us work out exactly what we’re doing.

“But the good news is that we have a really good and exciting programme of performances and shows, we just know what we need to do and when and then we will be publicising it.”

Image above: Chiswick House – Jennifer Griffiths, Xanthe Arvanitakis

Chiswick House and Gardens

Xanthe Arvanitakis is the Director of Chiswick House and Gardens Trust. She said she is “delighted but cautiously optimistic” about the phased easing of lockdown.

“We don’t know yet what it will mean [for events at Chiswick House and Gardens]. It’s cautiously optimistic because we need to go and speak to all of our partners, all of whom who have been waiting to see what is going to be allowed and whether they can go ahead with their various events. The next few days will be pretty frantic speaking to all our partners to see what people feel confident about.

“It’s good news though, finally some goods news. There’s more to come though we are working on the opening of the playgrounds and we’ll have a date on that in the next few weeks. Things are slowly coming together, it’s just all about timing now.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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