The Government has outlined the next steps for how the economy can reopen. For the full details, please check their website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do
For museums, the following highlights are probably most relevant:
Currently, the following sites in the entertainment and tourism sector must remain closed:
- Visitor attractions at farms, wildlife centres, and other animal attractions, model villages;
- Museums and galleries;
- Visitor attractions at film studios;
- Indoor games, recreation and entertainment venues (such as escape rooms and laser quest);
- Theatres and concert halls (except for formal education and training, rehearsal or broadcasting a performance);
- Cinemas, drive-in cinemas, theatres and outdoor concert venues must also not operate.
Indoor attractions at the following must close, but outdoor attractions and spaces can remain open for the purposes of exercise and outdoor recreation:
- Sculpture parks;
- Stately or historic homes, castles or other heritage sites;
- Botanical gardens;
- Botanical gardens, including biomes or greenhouses;
- Landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms.
Visitor centres at these attractions must also close, but this does not include toilets, or shops (that are permitted to remain open) where they can be accessed separately to the indoor attractions. Those outdoor venues and attractions that are permitted to remain open can offer food and (non-alcoholic) drinks as a takeaway service.
Changes on the 12th April 2021
From 12th April 2021 some of the the rules will change. You can read the ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ (the roadmap out of lockdown) for more information on how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England. You can also read the law that underpins these changes and the ongoing restrictions.
- Non-essential retail will be able to reopen;
- Public buildings such as libraries and community centers will be able to reopen;
- Outdoor hospitality venues will be able to reopen, with table service only;
- Most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) will be able to reopen;
- Some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds will be able to take place;
- Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and other commemorative events will be able to take place for up to 15 people (anyone working is not included in this limit), including in indoor venues that are permitted to open or where an exemption applies. Wedding receptions can also take place for up to 15 people, but must take place outdoors, not including private gardens;
- You should continue to minimise the amount that you travel where possible;
- Social distancing and face covering rules still apply;
- If you or your volunteers are clinically extremely vulnerable, you are no longer advised to shield. However, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to take additional precautions to protect yourself;
- You will still need to follow the rules even if you have received a Covid-19 vaccination;
- The Rule of 6 applies to your visitors in any outdoor settings that are able to be open (groups must include no more than 2 households – with any associated support bubbles included in that – and children of all ages count towards the limit of 6). Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaking the limit if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.
- Outdoor setting where people can meet include:
- parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests;
- public and botanical gardens;
- the grounds of a heritage site;
- outdoor sculpture parks;
- public playgrounds;
- outdoor sports venues and facilities.
There is further guidance on reopening businesses and venues which explains which business will be permitted to open at each step of the roadmap: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reopening-businesses-and-venues-in-england
- From 29th March 2021, outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed, providing greater flexibility for families to see each other. This includes in private gardens.
- Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
- At this point, the Stay at Home order will end, although many lockdown restrictions will remain. For example, you should continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel remains banned, aside for a small number of reasons.
Step 2 (12th April 2021 onwards)
- Non-essential retail and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres, will reopen.
- Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos, and theme parks, will also reopen although wider social contact rules will apply in these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
- Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will also reopen – but only for use by people on their own or with their household.
- Hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only. There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcohol, and no curfew – although customers must order, eat and drink while seated.
- Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15 (from 6).
Step 3 (17th May 2021 onwards)
- Outdoors, most social contact rules will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
- Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas, outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas can reopen. Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will still apply.
- Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen. Museums and galleries will fall into this group.
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. Other life events that will be permitted include bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Step 4 (21st June 2021 onwards)
- It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.
- The government will evaluate decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
Questions to ask yourself
- What can your museum realistically prepare for opening in May?
- Are you anticipating a change of visitor demographic? You may want to think about doing some audience scoping to get an idea of who to expect. Further information can be found the fact sheet entitled ‘Audiences’ within this document.
- How often do you need to clean/wipe down the premises? Hygiene is a big topic to get to grips with, and there is some great information in the following fact sheets that you can find in this document:
- ‘Hygiene for Cafés and Catering Stations’
- ‘Museum Toilets’
- ‘Museum Shops’
- Good ventilation is now recognised as being as important in indoor spaces as ‘Hands-Face-Space’. How could you increase ventilation in areas where staff, volunteers and visitors may gather? Consider if this will bring additional risks to your collections. See the ‘Ventilation’ factsheet for more information.
- If you are planning to open your outdoor space from 12 April, think about the visitor journey and the best way to make it clear to visitors what is and is not open. What if your museum doesn’t have outdoor grounds or gardens? Are there other ways to build connections with your audiences? Some museums have looked into placing display boards on the walls outside their sites or moved into providing content virtually. There are some case studies in the resources section.
- What if your outdoor space is only accessible through another building? If that is the case, there is some good guidance in the ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ (the roadmap out of lockdown).
- When can you invite groups back? And how many in a group? Until Step 4, the rule of 6 will still apply indoors so it is highly likely you will need to wait until this is formally lifted before you can invite groups to return.
- Educational visits are permitted again from 12 April. Have you reviewed your risk assessment for school visits, taking into account current guidelines? Schools will also need to do their own risk assessments before considering a visit to any site (whether indoor or outdoor). It is a good idea to open a dialogue with your local schools before considering the return of school groups to your site. Please also see the fact sheet within this document on working with schools entitled ‘Schools, Learning and SEND.’
- What about your staff and volunteers? There will be a number of things you will want to think through before reopening.
- How will you reintegrate staff and volunteers who have been away for a long time? Can you arrange update training to remind people on procedures?
- What are the concerns of your staff and volunteers? How can you reassure people about your Covid-secure measures?
- Many organisations are moving to a more flexible way of working, offering staff an opportunity to work from home for a proportion of the week. How would you respond to those requests?
- Some organisations are asking staff and volunteers to take regular lateral flow tests. Are you considering doing so?
- How will the possibility of Covid-19 Vaccine Passports affect the museum if they do become a requirement? Are you keeping up to date with the most relevant information coming from the government?
‘A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there’
- Stanley Judd
Government press release on next steps
Government guidance on school visits
Workplace coronavirus lateral flow testing
Virtual Museum Tours, Pendon Museum
National Paralympic Heritage Trust
Jane Austen’s House from home – virtual tours and other online content