Theme parks could become 'non-essential shops' to re-open after lockdown

THEME parks could be deemed "non-essential shops" to avoid remain closed when the lockdown lifts.

Before the lockdown, when the UK was in a tiered system, non-essential shops could open in tier 3, while attractions could not.

There are hopes for shops to be able to reopen by next month.

According to ITV, Alton Towers, who is owned by Merlin Entertainments along with Legoland and Warwick Castle, is calling for them to be treated the same when restrictions are eased.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce further dates for the UK lockdown with a roadmap to reopening on February 22.

If the UK goes back into a tiered system, only tier 4 would remain in the strict lockdown, while tier 3 would have less restrictions.

Merlin Entertainments said in a statement: "Following the end of the second lockdown before Christmas, indoor entertainment centres had to remain closed, despite their multitude of COVID-19 safety precautions, and outdoor entertainment centres, whilst being able to remain open, were only able to do so in a very limited capacity, with accommodation and many of their indoor attractions being closed.

“Meanwhile, non-essential retail (shops, gyms, hairdressers and garden centres) were allowed to open fully including in Tier 3 areas.

"This is despite retail outlets having hundreds of customers through their doors, with no records kept, and in contrast to Merlin’s attractions where all tickets are pre-purchased and visitor contact details are provided.”

Many of the theme parks and attractions have introduced strict cleaning measures, including additional cleaning between rides, social distancing markers and hand sanitiser stations across the park.

Francis Jackson, Alton Towers Operations Director said it is an "invaluable benefit" to the community to reopen when it is safe.

The 2021 season for attractions starts next month, with many theme parks wanting to reopen by March – here is the latest update on when they hope to reopen.

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Chessington has announced their new ride opening later this year called Croc Drop, where guests plummet 25m into a crocodile mouth.

Here are the rest of the new rides and attractions hoping to open this year.

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