Flower shows and soccer matches are set to become among the first major outdoor events to return this summer, as the U.K. emerges from months of lockdown restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19.
The Royal Horticultural Society has announced that summer shows at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey and Tatton Park in Cheshire will take place in person in July, after being canceled last year.
The society announced last month that the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show will be moved from May to September for the first time in its 108-year history, as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in the U.S. said its annual Philadelphia Flower Show will be held outdoors this June for the first time in its 192-year history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have seen a huge increase in people taking up gardening and growing in the last year and so in being able to return to Hampton Court Palace and Tatton Park this summer, we hope to bring inspiration and advice for all gardeners and plant lovers as well as a much-needed celebration of summer,” said Helena Pettit, RHS director of gardens and shows.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month set out a four-step plan to ease the U.K. out of its third lockdown by mid-June. The first step took place this week, with millions of schoolchildren returning to classrooms.
It could also be a huge summer for soccer fans, who have been unable to watch a live match in England for almost an entire year. Under the current plans, up to 10,000 fans will be allowed into games from May 17 — in time for the final weekend of the Premier League. From June 21 all restrictions could be lifted.
The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, featuring 24 national teams from across the continent, will then begin on June 11 after being postponed for a year. The monthlong tournament will be hosted across 12 cities, a plan devised several years ago and a change from the normal one or two hosts.
Johnson has offered for the U.K. to host all the matches, with many other countries slower to roll out COVID-19 vaccines and likely to remain under restrictions for some months. The European football governing body UEFA has so far turned down Johnson’s offer, but countries have until April 7 to declare whether they will be able to host matches.
The U.K. is already set to host both semifinals and the final as well as a number of group games but could still end up home to a festival of football if other countries pull out of hosting, providing an even bigger boost to the economy.
Each step of the government’s easing plan will be subject to four tests, including the speed of the country’s vaccine deployment and the impact vaccines have on reducing hospitalizations and deaths, as well as general infection rates.
More than 22 million people in the U.K., or two-fifths of the adult population, have now received one shot of either the vaccine developed by Anglo-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca AZN,
The government has said it is on track to offer a first dose to the rest of the adult population by the end of July, as it invited people aged 56 to 59 in England to book a COVID-19 vaccine this week.