THOSE working in the tourism industry have been able to breathe a huge sigh of relief as coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been once again eased.

Overnight stays in England have been allowed since Saturday as part of the widest-ranging lifting of measures since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

As pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels were permitted to welcome guests for the first time in almost three months, the two-metre social distancing rule was also relaxed to one-metre plus.

A wave of new measures have been implemented across the industry, including enhanced cleaning and disinfection, as well as protective equipment for staff.

Castle House Hotel in Hereford’s Castle Street planned to start with a number of regular guests, including those travelling on business, with no back-to-back bookings in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

General manager George Watkins said: “We are open. Our main objective was that we did not want to let down those guests. We have a few guests that have businesses in Hereford or have reasons to come to Hereford and stay with us week in, week out.

“We questioned whether it would be viable to reopen. I felt it would be wrong for us to not provide that service to people who have supported us in the past.”

One business keen to reopen on Saturday was Longtown’s Offa’s Dyke Retreat in the Golden Valley.

Owner Joey Watkins said the self-contained pods meant guests felt more comfortable as they did not share facilities, but it was difficult to know if demand would remain high over coming months.

“They’ve got their own kitchenette and en suite bathroom. They’ve got their own sort of area so they feel secure,” he said

“We’re quite lucky really that we’re set up how we are. Everyone has seemed quite keen and we were fully booked for their first weekend.

He added: “We don’t know what the knock-on is going to be really. We don’t know how everything is going to pan out. We’ve just sort of got to go with it.”

But while some just reopened their doors on Saturday for the first time since March 23, one B&B owner remained open to give something back to the NHS.

Sandra Benjamin, of Holly House in Aylestone Hill, vowed to accommodate NHS and key workers who could have needed to isolate from their family to reduce potential risk, or agency workers sent to the area.

Ms Benjamin said: “I’ve looked after a lot of doctors. I had a stroke myself in 2018 and I made the decision to stay open as a way of giving something back because of the way I was looked after in hospital. They were lovely to me.

“It isn’t just during the pandemic I’ve looked after them, I looked after them before. I have a lot of respect for doctors. It has been a bit scary. There’s been some nights I’ve been sat here on my own and I’ve thought I’m inviting it [coronavirus] into the house.”