Downton Abbey: Lockdown roadmap 'catastrophic' for Highclere

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionHighclere Castle was designed by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament, in 1842

The owner of the stately home used in Downton Abbey has said the government's roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions is "catastrophic".

The Countess of Carnarvon said there was "inconsistency" in allowing indoor shopping from April 12 but not indoor entertainment, which Highclere Castle is classified under, until May 17.

She questioned why a one-way tour around the Hampshire castle was "more dangerous" than going to a shop.

"I don't understand it," she added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a new four-step plan to ease England's lockdown on Monday, which could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, if new conditions are met.

They require four tests for vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met at each stage.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Lady Carnarvon said: "It's pretty catastrophic.

"Last year we were only able to operate perhaps three out of the 12 months, like many other hospitality and heritage businesses.

"We have all got sensible protections, we are all part of the economy. Why is it more dangerous to walk round Highclere Castle, with 400 metres of one-way tour with people spaced, than it is to go round a department store?

"It's the same with pubs - is it more dangerous to go and have a massage or is it more dangerous to go into a pub?

"Of course we are proud of the NHS... that's not in question. But you can see how the infections are going down and the deaths, thank goodness, are going down."

image copyrightHighclere Castle
image captionLady Carnarvon has criticised the government's strategy

The road map includes a five-week gap between its four steps to allow the impact of relaxations to be measured to see whether there is an increase in infections which could put unsustainable pressure on the health service.

Mr Johnson has said the plan aims to be "cautious but irreversible" and at every stage decisions would be led by "data not dates".

UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said at a Downing Street briefing that it was "very important" to leave a gap of five weeks between the changes in the roadmap to avoid "flying blind".

Highclere Castle, sitting on Hampshire's border with Berkshire, was the set of Downton Abbey, which followed the ups and downs of the Crawley family and their servants.

The period TV drama, which was a hit around the world, ended in 2015 after six series.

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