This is when cinemas, museums and galleries might be able to reopen in England
Lockdown restrictions in England may be continuing to lift at a steady rate, but people are beginning to wonder when they might be able to return to some semblance of ‘normal’.
One major aspect of everyday life that’s still heavily restricted under lockdown involves leisure facilities like museums, galleries and cinemas.
Sure, there have been virtual gallery and museum tours, and some of the biggest movies of recent months have released exclusively on streaming services, but there can be no substitute for getting out and enjoying the real thing.
So just when might residents in England be able to enjoy some of these popular pastimes?
Here's everything you need to know:
When will cinemas, museums and galleries reopen in England?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a number of changes to the current lockdown rules in England on Tuesday 23 June, as the country approaches phase three of its exit plan.
Those changes are thought to include the reopening of cinemas, museums and galleries from Saturday 4 July.
The announcement comes following a meeting with senior Cabinet members on 22 June, alongside chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, to determine whether it is safe to begin the next phase of the lockdown exit plan.
Venues closed since the middle of March will be able to welcome visitors as long as safety measures are in place.
Mr. Johnson will outline his plans in Parliament on Tuesday 23 June at approximately 12.30pm; he will then deliver a speech to the nation later in the day, outlining any new measures that will be introduced.
Some scientists have, however, expressed concern the Government is moving too quickly, and that its track-and-trace system to contain any fresh outbreaks is not fully up and running.
Will things go back to normal right away?
Even once it is announced that cinemas, galleries and museums can be reopened, it may be a while until the experience of visiting them is quite like it was before Covid-19, and these facilities will open subject to physical distancing and hygiene measures.
Ahead of Government guidelines – also expected to be outlined on 23 June – it’s hard to say for certain what these measures could be.
With ministers desperate to restart the stalled economy, detailed sector-by-sector guidance will be published for businesses in England – from hotels to hairdressers – on how to reopen in a Covid-secure manner.
Some cinema chains have outlined their plans for returning, such as Cineworld, which hope its cinemas will be back in operation by Friday 10 July.
Booking systems will be updated to allow friends and family to sit together while ensuring a safe distance between customers from different households, and film times will be staggered to reduce customers cross paths with other customers going in or out of other screens and buildup of crowds in the foyer.
Plastic screens will be installed at concessions areas where safe distancing cannot be maintained, and hand sanitiser stations will be provided for both customers and employees.
As for galleries and museums, it’s likely similar measure will be in place to keep patrons at a safe distance for one another, and these could include reducing the maximum capacity of buildings, and making the wearing of face covering compulsory.
Could the two metre rule be reduced?
Of course, social distancing measures currently centre on the ‘two metre rule’, which states people from separate households should not come within two metres of each other where possible, to avoid the spread of the virus.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that England is “clearly on track” to further ease lockdown restrictions after repeated calls to relax the two metre social distancing rule to one.
Mr. Johnson is expected to reduce the required distance between members of different households to just one metre in England, with some mitigating measures; the rule is expected to come into effect on 4 July, providing it is considered safe.
The review of the two-metre rule drew on advice from economists as well as medical and scientific experts.