England’s zoos will be watching closely to see if they can open on April 12th, as part of the second phase of the re-opening of the country following lockdown.
Prime minister Boris Johnson listed zoos alongside theme parks and drive-in cinemas as places that can open provided the data has been sufficiently positive on infection rates, hospitalisations and vaccinations - as well as avoiding any new vaccine-dodging mutant strains.
As mainly outdoor attractions, zoos will be among the first facilities to be available for the pubic to visit again, although the rules that were in place last year would suggest indoor sections will remain shut.
Last year saw zoos closed in the March lockdown and only allowed to open again in mid-June, by which time infection rates had plunged. Many zoos had warned they were in danger of having to close and have had to appeal for public donations to meet running costs.
London Zoo, like many others, had established various steps for ensuring they were Covid safe, including keeping indoor sections closed and having several specific one-way routes visitors could take. However, they still had to close when the latest lockdown took effect on January 5th.
With hopes rising that this will be the last lockdown, however, now may be a good time for owners to consider some zoo exhibit design changes.
Not only might these incorporate some steps to make some exhibits Covid safe when they might previously not have been, but it could also involve permanent changes that would enhance them, such as better viewing positions or greater access for visitors with limited mobility.
Work on some indoor attractions could take place while the outdoor sections are open, with the public gleefully flocking back to zoos when they have the chance. The hope will be they can come back again in the summer to visit the indoor sections as well.