Zoos in England can reopen next week as Boris Johnson eases lockdown further

Move comes after warning that continued closure could mean animal attractions shutting down for good

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 10 June 2020 01:31
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Coronavirus in numbers

Zoos in England are to be allowed to reopen their doors to visitors from Monday, after Boris Johnson announced a further relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The move comes after the prime minister’s father Stanley joined pleas from zookeepers and conservationists to bring forward the planned opening date from July, amid warnings that some animal attractions may be forced to shut permanently by the pandemic.

Also to be permitted to readmit visitors from 15 June will be outdoor attractions where people stay in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in cinemas, given the low risk of coronavirus transmission.

A spokesman for British zoos welcomed the move but warned that the sector was “not out of the woods”.

“Aquariums are still closed, and zoos and safari parks have taken a real hit,” said Andrew Hall, spokesperson for the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza).

“For some zoos, particularly those reliant on tourism, reopening isn’t going to be financially viable for them.

“It’s helpful today but it’s not the full answer to the challenges we face.”

He added: “Zoos and aquariums in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still be facing significant challenges and we will be working hard to achieve positive outcomes in these nations.”

Conservationist Stanley Johnson called on Tuesday for zoos to reopen “as soon as possible”.

Stanley Johnson

And the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on zoos, Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, warned that delay would mean “animals euthanised and huge amounts of vital work in terms of conservation, protection of endangered species and education being lost”.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing, the prime minister is expected to say that reopening will be subject to venues being able to comply with two-metre social distancing rules.

This will mean indoor exhibitions like reptile houses, as well as cafes and gift shops, remaining closed, although takeaway services will be allowed.

A Downing Street official said: “People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.

“This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors, while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals.”

The government has previously provided a £14m support fund to help smaller zoos care for their animals during lockdown.

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