BUSINESSES said they are 'gutted' they will be forced to stay closed for weeks longer under Boris Johnson's 'cautious' roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The Prime Minister has set out England's road to freedom from Covid regulations, with plans to reopen schools, retail and hospitality businesses over the coming months.

Under his plans, all schools will return on March 8, while care home residents will be allowed to nominate one loved one for face-to-face visits.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on Monday, March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin.

Larger groups of up to six people or two households will be allowed to gather in parks and private gardens, while outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen.

On April 12, non-essential retail, as well as hairdressers, beauty salons, libraries, gyms, zoos and theme parks can reopen, while pubs and restaurants can reopen outdoors without curfews - although the rule of six will still be in place.

On May 17, the rule of six will be dropped, two households will be able to meet outdoors, hotels can reopen and thousands of people will be allowed at sports grounds, depending on capacity.

The final stage of the roadmap takes place on June 21 when all legal limits on social contact will be removed, restrictions on large scale events will be lifted, and remaining hospitality venues - such as nightclubs - can reopen.

Mr Johnson stressed that the plans depends on coronavirus cases continuing to fall, the vaccination programme continuing with no disruption and any new coronavirus variants.

Vanessa Burridge, beautician at Elysian Beauty and Aesthetics Clinic in Weymouth, said: “I am absolutely gutted we won’t be able to go back to work until April – I felt really disheartened when I heard the news.

"It is still such a long time to wait before we can go back to work and we are all missing our clients. We’ve worked for less than five months in this financial year which is so tough as although we can access grants it doesn’t amount to what I would normally be earning. I personally think it would be safer for us to reopen sooner as we are such a clean and hygienic industry.”

Nick Bell, who owns New Body gyms in Bridport and Weymouth, has questioned the reasoning why establishments like his own cannot reopen yet – citing its numerous health and wellbeing benefits.

He said he and other gyms are ‘ready to reopen’ with social distancing and hygiene measures already in place. Citing a scientific study, he said that 0.3 per cent of coronavirus infections came from gym settings.

He said: “In terms of safety, it is one of the safest places to go to. I think we (and other gym owners) are ready for reopening but we’re on pause.

“We are also aware of the risks everyone went to and the highest amount of effort to make their facilities are safe. They are likely the safest they can be.”

From a financial perspective, Mr Bell’s business continues to struggle, with the only income being from Government grants.

New Body’s memberships were frozen, but some members had offered to continue paying their memberships to help support the gym.

He explained: “We froze all memberships, so we have zero income bar the support of Government grants.

“We have continued with online programmes for members to keep them going using instructors.

“We have also set up a JustGiving page to help keep services going.”

He added: “We are looking to rebuild our community we have built.

“We are still here to support our members as support is so important for everyone, whether it is online or in person.”

Pub landlords have also spoken of their disappointment, as Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Let us be clear, outdoor service at pubs is not the same as properly opening pubs both inside and outside and is not commercially viable.

“By our numbers, 29,000 pubs would still be forced to stay shut in April because they simply do not have the beer garden or outdoor space to do it."

The landlord of the Kings Arms in Shaftesbury has made the decision to close his doors. In a Facebook post he said “it was partly due to Covid as I believe we are some way off from social pubs being truly social again.”

Rhos Thompson, landlord of the Wyke Smugglers in Wyke Regis, said: “Outdoor in April is not going to help a lot of pubs in this area. It is certainly not going to help the small independent pubs.”

“We were very lucky last year with the weather, but I don’t know if it will be the same this year.”

Ian Girling, Dorset Chamber chief executive, said: “The Prime Minister’s roadmap finally provides some very welcome direction of travel.

“Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, many businesses in the hardest hits sectors such as non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality may be disappointed with the timescales and feel he is being overly cautious.

“The roadmap shows that the earliest opening date for such sectors falls after the Easter weekend, but it does at least give businesses a timeframe to work to.

“Clearly, it is now up to all of us to take every step necessary to ensure we hit each milestone on the roadmap at the very earliest opportunity.

“We also require clarity from the Chancellor in the Budget next week about support for businesses and reassurance that there will be no cliff-edge when it comes to phasing this out.”