TODAY'S THE DAY! Northamptonshire shops, pubs, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor attractions are OPEN again
But remember to wear a mask, keep your distance and stay out of someone else's home
Today marks a major day in Northamptonshire s coronavirus diary with restrictions relaxed and a raft of freedoms restored.
Monday, April 12, has been circled on many calendars ever since Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown way back on February 22 with the promise of shops, hairdressers, gyms and pubs all being back in business for the first time this yaar.
Rules over weddings and visiting loved ones in care settings are also tweaked as part of Step Two of the PM's big plan to have things back to “some semblance of normality” by June 21.
Here’s a rundown of what you can again from today — and what you still can't ...
■ Shop til you drop
Those hankering after wandering the aisles of your favourite clothes and homeware stores, you’re in luck. Northamptonshire's non-essential shops are open for the first time since the county was plunged into tier four on December 30.
You can even try on whatever catches your eye before you buy — although you might have to queue. Guidance issued last week advised shops to leave a gap of "several minutes" between customers and clean cubicles regularly.
Masks are still mandatory unless you are medically exempt and remember those queues outside stores for the last big reopening last June!
ITCHING TO GET BACK: Northampton's independent shops and busineses ready to reopen
■ Time for a chop
If you’re fed up sporting the latest lockdown look or still wearing a big hat to hide a DIY trim, the good news is that hairdressers and barbers are back in business.
Some crimpers might have already done a full shift with appointments at a minute past midnight up for grabs in some salons.
Other personal care services such as nail salons are also open again.
TOP TRIMMERS: Northampton's top hairdressers as decided by YOU
■ We’re off down the pub
Although the first thing you need to check before heading off to the local is the weather forecast.
Yesterday's snow in Northamptonshire made a few wonder just how keen they were for a cheeky pint as drinking is allowed only outside until May 17 at the earliest. Same goes for eating at restaurants.
Only those boozers with suitable outdoor space are able to open — and that's thought to mean around 60 per cent of the county's hostelries will stay closed, for now.
Shares in firms supplying patio heaters might be worth a few bob’s investment.
CHECK THESE OUT: Stunning pub gardens and outdoor dining spaces in Northamptonshire
■ Hit the gym
Fitness fans will be delighted that gyms, pools and other indoor leisure and sports facilities are open again — although, fittingly, there are a few big ‘buts’ attached, mainly you can exercise on your own, with your household or bubble.
Rules don’t allow for classes indoors quite yet, but outdoors is OK.
Outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, plus open-air swimming, have been open since March 29 – as long as you stick to the rule of six.
BACK IN THE SWIM: How Trilogy Gyms are reopening this week.
■ Take a staycation
Travelling abroad is still a no-go but overnight stays in self-contained accommodation – caravans, Airbnbs, self-catering cottages, shepherd’s huts etc – are OK in England.
Finally, you can get away for a few nights with your household or support bubble although it’s worth remembering we’re still urged to minimise the distances we travel wherever possible.
LIFE'S A PITCH: Our top 12 glamping and camping spots in and around Northamptonshire
■ Get out and about
Parents who spent the past year or so trying to keep their kids entertained largely at home can finally expand their repertoire as outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive-ins open their doors again.
Some smaller outdoor events such as fetes and fairgrounds also have the green light to resume.
GRAND DAY OUT: Take your pick from these Northamptonshire outdoor attractions
■ Return of indoor childcare
More good news for long-suffering mums and dads is that childcare and supervised activities will be allowed indoors – as well as outdoors. Again there’s a ‘but’ because only groups catering for up to 15 grown-ups and kids can take place, although under-fives do not count.
■ Still no big weddings, but they can be a little bigger
Until now, six has been the maximum number for people at weddings. Now, though, wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and other commemorative events — including wakes — can go ahead with up to 15 people NOT including anyone working the event.
Such events are also allowed in indoor venues that can be open or where an exemption applies and the restriction for 'exceptional circumstances only' is removed.
You can also hold a wedding reception with up to 15 people present, but they must be outdoors – and not in a private garden.
■ At last, a hug from grandma or grandpa
All those longing to see their loved ones in care homes — and those in care homes longing to see their loved ones — now have a greater opportunity to do just that.
Each resident can pick two named individuals for their regular indoor visits, following a rapid lateral flow test. Check out how it all works HERE.
■ Read all about it
Libraries have been a bit under the radar compared to pubs and shops, but public buildings such as libraries and community centres are open again. Welcome news for bookworms who have been stuck with the same old volumes for company during the winter.
■ But, DON'T FORGET ..
Some of the old restrictions remain in force until at least May 17 — particularly that one about no mixing indoors at home with anyone you don't live with or is not part of your 'bubble'.
Police will still issue £200 Fixed Penalty Notices for anyone caught breaching that rule, or even more if you're throwing a party with 15-or-more inisde.
Social distancing rules still mean people will must stay at least two metres apart EVERYWHERE and you should continue to work from home where you can.
If you have any of the three main symptoms of coronavirus — high temperature, new or continuous cough, or a loss in sense of taste — then lock yourself away from everybody else and CLICK HERE to book a test or call 119.
For those with no symptoms, everyone in England can take a rapid lateral flow device test twice a week — CLICK HERE to see how free tests are being offered across Northamptonshire.