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Services continue to reopen as lockdown restrictions ease, and residents urged to continue to get tested as pop-up venues launch

Published: Thursday, 13th May 2021

Council leaders are welcoming the easing of lockdown restrictions from next week, but are warning of the critical importance of taking personal responsibility to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

From Monday (17 May), the third stage of the national roadmap out of lockdown will see a host of changes which will include exercise and fitness classes restarting at council leisure centres, council-run museums reopening, the capacity at Carmountside Chapel increasing from 30 people to 50 people for funeral services and a number of changes to social gathering rules. The key changes that will take effect include:

  • Two households or up to six people will be able meet both outdoors and indoors, including for overnight stays.
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people will be able to take place.
  • Up to 30 people will be able to attend most significant life events including weddings, receptions, christenings, and bar mitzvahs.
  • The legal limit on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted. Venues should set limits based on individual capacity.
  • Indoor hospitality will reopen. Those that serve alcohol must provide table services. This means that pubs and restaurants can reopen indoors.
  • Indoor entertainment and attractions, including theatres, soft play centres, museums and cinemas will reopen.
  • Indoor adult group sports and exercise classes can resume.
  • Performances and sporting events in indoor and outdoor venues can resume with capacity limits.
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can open for people on holiday.
  • Everybody in Britain will be able to travel anywhere in the country and stay overnight. Please travel safely and plan ahead.
  • Social distancing will be maintained in public places such as in shops, pubs, parks and other settings such as businesses and adult social care locations.
  • Face coverings must still be worn in indoor public places.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is hugely encouraging that restrictions are lifting again, and these changes are the ones I, and I’m sure many others have been looking forward to the most. It means that from Monday I’ll be able to hug my mum and dad again and to pick up my one-year-old niece. I know so many people, businesses and communities will be making their own plans to make the most of the changes from Monday.

“But amongst the excitement, I urge caution. You no longer have to limit close contact among friends and family. This means that you do not have to social distance from your close friends and family. It is now up to you to decide whether to maintain distance or not, and you must remain cautious. Close contact still remains a direct way of transmitting coronavirus.

“We need to use common sense to judge situations and continue to get tested regularly – and it is now even easier to do so with home testing kits and community test kits.”

From Monday (17 May), exercise and fitness classes will restart at Fenton Manor Sports Complex, Dimensions Leisure Centre in Tunstall, and The Wallace Sports and Education Centre in Abbey Hulton. The centres have a full range of Covid-secure measures in place to protect visitors and staff. Classes can be booked via the MyStoke App, via www.stoke.gov.uk/sports or by calling in to a centre. And residents who sign up to become gym members now will get their first month free.

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery will welcome back visitors from Monday (17 May) and Gladstone Pottery Museum from Tuesday (18 May) with a wide range of events and exhibitions. Both sites have been awarded Visit England ‘Good To Go’ status – a UK-wide, industry standard consumer mark which confirms that an attraction is adhering to the latest government and public health guidance. Residents must pre-book to visit, and can do so via www.stokemuseums.org.

From Monday (17 May), the number of mourners allowed at a funeral service will increase, depending on the facility where the service is held, in line with social distancing guidelines. It means that at Carmountside Cemetery and Crematorium, the capacity at the chapel will increase to 50 people, with Covid-secure measures being in place. In order to do this, face coverings must be worn throughout the service – other than by those who are exempt in the guidance where a two-metre distance must be kept. Due to burials taking place in the open air, the number of mourners can be increased from 30, however, social distancing guidelines should be adhered to and a distance of two metres (one metre when wearing a face covering) should be maintained between mourners who are not in the same household or support bubble. The number of people attending commemorative events such a cremation and ashes placements will increase to 30 from this date also.

Meanwhile, the seven-day rate of coronavirus cases in the city is now 25.7 per 100,000 people, for the week 30 April – 6 May 2021. This is a decrease of 27.5 per cent on the previous seven days. The percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is 0.9 per cent. Although cases are still widespread across the city, places where there are higher levels of community transmission include:  Etruria and Hanley and Moorcroft. Residents in these areas should consider booking a test.

Changing to community testing arrangements will take place next week, as the city continues to lead the way in providing testing in ways that best meet the needs of local people. Stoke-on-Trent remains one of the highest-performing areas in the region for testing, with the most recent seven-day total of 31,784 PCR and lateral flow tests combined, carried out between 28 April and 4 May.

From next week, a six-week rolling programme of pop-up testing will take place in communities across the city run by staff from Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust (MPFT). Residents will also be able to pick up home test kits from the venues and learn how to use them. The first pop-up venue will be around the bandstand and pavilion area of Hanley Park on Tuesday 18 May and Wednesday 19 May, between 2-6pm.

The new arrangements will also see changes to existing community testing venues, meaning that onsite testing at Northwood Stadium and Florence Sports and Social Club will reduce, testing at the City Centre Mosque will close, and Baddeley Green Working Men’s Club will change from providing a community collect service to providing home LFT kits in line with their opening hours. There are still plenty of slots available at council facilities and residents are also encouraged to check out venues which offer the Community Collect service – where they can pick up free home testing kits. For more information visit https://www.stoke.gov.uk/communitycollect.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “We know from the data that testing really took off from the start of the year when the latest lockdown began, and reached a high during March and then dipped at the start of April around Easter before rising again now. This is in keeping with national trends and I’d like to thank everyone who took the nearly 32,000 tests in the latest set of data for taking personal responsibility as we all must do, to stop the spread of the virus.

“The data also tells us that during the summer last year case rates dropped off considerably and we are approaching a similar position to then now. But last year we had a surge in cases as we approached the winter months. No-one wants that to happen again. More and more people are now being called for vaccinations, and I urge everyone to make sure they don’t miss their appointment. We should all be getting tested and to build this in to our regular routines every week. The importance of following all of the public health guidance is critical as the lockdown continues to ease.”