When can soft play centres reopen in England?

STEP two of the government's roadmap out of lockdown came into force today, but while pubs and retail reopen, soft play centres won't just yet.

Millions of children returned to school on March 8 as part of step one, but it wont be until step three that we might see soft play centres reopening in England.

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Since other restrictions have eased today, some parents might be wondering when soft play centres will open again.

Outdoor children's areas like playgrounds are open at the moment, but in line with the current lockdown rules, soft play centres won't be opening for a least another month.

The PM's roadmap for unlocking Britain has remained on schedule so far, and step two was allowed to go ahead as planned today because the criteria for easing restrictions had been met.

But we will only see it stay that way if coronavirus cases remain under control and the vaccine programme stays on track.

What four tests does the gov need to pass before easing restrictions?

1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

4. Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

When will soft play centres reopen?

Soft play centres are not expected to reopen before May 17, as part of the roadmap.

This is stage three of the unlocking of lockdown, and focuses on the reopening of indoor venues.

Other places that are expected to reopen on this date, as long as conditions allow, include cinemas, bowling alleys and casinos.

A full list of everything that could reopen on May 17 include:

  • Cinemas
  • Theatres
  • Concert halls
  • Museums and galleries
  • Adventure playgrounds and activities
  • Amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
  • Bingo halls
  • Casinos
  • Bowling alleys
  • Skating rinks
  • Games, recreation and entertainment venues such as escape rooms and laser quest
  • Play areas (including soft play centres and inflatable parks)
  • Model villages
  • Snooker and pool halls
  • Trampolining parks
  • Water and aqua parks
  • Indoor visitor attractions at theme parks and film studios
  • Indoor attractions at zoos, safari parks, aquariums and other animal attractions
  • Indoor attractions at botanical gardens, greenhouses and biomes
  • Indoor attractions at sculpture parks
  • Indoor attractions at landmarks including observation wheels or viewing platforms
  • Indoor attractions at stately or historic homes, castles, or other heritage sites
  • Conference centres and exhibition halls, including for the purposes of business events (subject to the capacity limits)

How long have soft play areas been closed for?

This depends on what part of the country you live in.

Before the third national lockdown, England was using the Tier system to manage the coronavirus crisis.

Soft play areas were allowed to remain open in areas placed under Tier 1 and Tier 2 restrictions, but they had to close in Tier 3 and Tier 4 places.

All venues nationwide had to close following the third lockdown, which came into force on January 5.

What rules are expected to be in place for soft play centres?

We don't know yet exactly how soft play centres will look when they reopen.

However, venues had to follow certain rules when they reopened after the last lockdown.

This included areas being vigorously cleaned and visitor numbers reduced.

Visitors over the age of 11 had to wear face coverings and parents were expected to make sure their little ones socially distance.

Other measures included:

  • Reduced visitor capacity
  • Online pre-booking
  • Temperature checks for staff and visitors
  • Removing tables and chairs to separate family groups
  • Perspex screens at reception and cafes
  • Hand sanitiser units and extra hand washing stations
  • Increased cleaning
  • Air sterilisation and ventilation
  • New cafe procedures
  • Antibacterial fogging
  • Removal of loose play items like ball pits

We've rounded up the full list of everything reopening in step two and that means shops and pubs can open today.

But as part of the plans, pubs and restaurants won't reopen for indoor drinking until May 17 at the earliest.

Working from home measures will remain in place until at least June.

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