Devon is being hailed as in a good position to begin welcoming back visitors as it has one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 cases in the country.
In a statement today (Tuesday, June 23), Devon County Council’s leader has said the area can welcome people again from Saturday, July 4, as long as the low level of cases continues.
It follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement today that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers can reopen on that date, with a ‘one metre plus’ rule of 1m social distancing plus other precautionary measures.
Council leader John Hart said: “All the evidence from our public health experts shows that because we were able to get an early grip on the virus Devon continues to have one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 cases in the country.
“Thanks to a brilliant Team Devon effort by our front-line health and care workers, council staff, police and military Devon is in a good position to start welcoming back visitors in July providing the low trend in cases continues locally and nationally.
“It would be a huge boost to our £2billion tourism economy, the biggest in the South West, and all the tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it. We know the people of Britain need a break and we need them back for the economy of this county.”
The Devon director of public health, Dr Virginia Pearson, said so far there was no evidence that the relaxations of lockdown had increased the spread of the virus, but the county needed to continue to be vigilant.
Devon is being touted as one of 11 ‘beacon councils’ that will be leading the future management of Covid-19 in partnership with the Government.
Cllr Hart continued: “So I want to say a huge thank you to local people for the way they have steadfastly followed the lockdown measures.
“Every one of you is a hero, you have stepped up, helped us save lives, protect our vital health and care services, and you’re helping to get Devon’s economy back on its feet.
“We just need everyone to keep up the good work, continue being sensible and keep following the local and Government guidance.
“For our part, the county council’s public health team along with Public Health England, the NHS and district council environmental health experts will continue to monitor the situation in Devon very carefully and we will not hesitate to take early action if there is any sign that the virus is making a comeback.”
Alistair Handyside, chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, said they had been clear they didn’t want to open a day too late or a day too early.
He said: “This news will be very well received, and now the race is on to ensure that we are ready and able to open by July 4.
“That’s a tall ask for many of us, but rest assured that we will be taking our guests’ and also our local community’s safety very seriously.
“Tourism relies on local support, from retail to restaurants, pubs to breweries, campsites to self-catering, so we need to work together to get back on our feet.
“It’s a vital, valuable part of our economy, and despite the circumstances, visitors to Devon and the South West will experience the very best we have to offer.”