Covid: 'It is important that this is the last lockdown'

By Laurence Cawley and Sonia Watson
BBC News, Essex

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image captionJulie Nwosu (r) says getting the end of lockdown 'right' is more important than getting it done quickly

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a four-part plan to ease the current lockdown restrictions in England. BBC News spoke to people working in the hotel, beauty and gym industries to find out their reaction to the announcement.

'There is a ray of light in this for us'

"The most damaging thing is opening and then closing," says Julie Nwosu, who owns the Grosvenor Hotel, in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, with husband Chika.

"That has been even more damaging than the lockdown itself, so it is important that we get this right so that this is the last lockdown."

image captionThe Grosvenor Hotel is close to the seafront

Under Mr Johnson's plan, hotels should be able to reopen from 17 May.

Mr Nwosu says he is disappointed at not to being able to open earlier because he will miss the Easter trade.

However, he is reassured the plans appear to have been "well thought through".

"The key message for me is that the plan looks like it is irreversible and like there will be no more lockdowns," he says.

"The toughest thing for us has been the stopping and starting - that is what has been most damaging to us. So there is a ray of light in this for us."

He adds that, by 17 May, most if not all of the over 50s will have been vaccinated.

Since most of his clientele is 50 or older, he hopes the reopening date combined with the vaccination programme will give his guests greater confidence in making bookings.

'It is really expensive to be closed'

image copyrightMichaela Bartlett
image captionMichaela Bartlett runs Michaela Health and Beauty in Billericay

Michaela Bartlett's health and beauty business in Billericay has been closed for more than half of the past year because of lockdowns and restrictions.

Despite this, Ms Bartlett wants a "careful reopening". She will be able to open on 12 April, as long as the various conditions are met.

"I don't want to be open for a couple of months and then closed again," she says. "We've had such a lot of closures.

"It is really expensive to be closed. But, at the same time, we don't want these knee-jerk 'you're open, you're closed' decisions - they just don't get you anywhere."

image copyrightMichaela Bartlett
image captionAfter the last lockdown, Ms Bartlett (end right) was only allowed to reopen two weeks after hairdressing salons

Responding to Mr Johnson's announcement, she says: "I am really pleased.

"We've got to move forward now. By the middle of April we're hoping the over 50s will have been vaccinated and all adults should be vaccinated by the end of July.

"It will mean people will feel more confident about going out and about."

'Everyone's got used to cleaning'

image copyrightJack Cardy
image captionJack and Connie Cardy have been offering Facebook sessions and personalised plans for members while the gym has been closed

For many people, staying at home and not being able to exercise in a gym has been a struggle during the lockdowns.

From 12 April, gyms will also be able to open, adhering to strict Covid-19 guidelines.

Jack Cardy, managing director of Live Fit gym in Manningtree, Essex, feared they may have had to remain closed longer.

But he says: "The team are happy and, hopefully, the time between now and then will go nice and fast."

He says the past year has been "very difficult", with the company down 95% on revenue per month on average since March 2020.

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They have been holding online sessions for those who wanted support, but he believes "people are a little tired of being at home".

He says: "I think we could see a nice few years for the industry with people getting back to the gym and getting back to spending a couple of hours outside their house."

The former personal trainer says he believes the extra cleaning of equipment and sanitisation is "here to stay".

"I think [there were] things we took for granted before, like someone going on a treadmill and running for 30 minutes, sweating over it and leaving it, not cleaning it at all," he says.

"Obviously we had staff clean things throughout the day but never as frequently as we have in the last year.

"But members are cleaning kit as soon as they've used it and everyone's got used to doing that, and I think Covid-19 has made everyone want to do it, want to be healthier and a bit more hygienic."

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