THERE is excitement in Bradford’s shops and bars today as many venues are finally able to fully reopen with the removal of all Covid-19 restrictions.

From today, all legal restrictions around Covid will cease to be in place, including the removal of social distancing measures, no more limits on the size of groups that can meet, and the end of the legal requirement for face masks to be worn in enclosed public spaces.

This means that many shops, pubs and restaurants across Bradford are now able to operate at full capacity for the first time in almost 18 months, while for some it is the first time they have been able to open at all since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

While legal rules have been removed, Bradford BID is asking people to be “respectful” towards shop workers by continuing to give space and wear a mask voluntarily to limit any spread of Covid.

Jonny Noble, BID manager, said: : “Businesses are looking forward to the lifting of restrictions with great enthusiasm, but there is also a great deal of concern that the Government is relying on individuals to take responsibility for their actions when it comes to wearing masks and keeping a safe distance.

“Getting back to something like normal will mean many can open their doors to more customers and go about their business in a less restrictive way.

“But mixed with all that is an anxiety that Covid rates are rising dramatically. Businesses are very much aware we’re still in a pandemic and we need to take care not to put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk.

“Staff are on the front line, meeting hundreds of people every day, and we hope people will remember mask wearing, hand cleansing and keeping a distance are all about protecting others as much as ourselves and will treat staff and fellow customers with kindness and respect.

“The city centre and all its businesses, in every sector, need customers to survive; we need people popping out for lunch breaks, and shopping to bring back the levels of trade businesses have traditionally enjoyed and to help them recover.

“But it is only worth it if we can keep staff and customers safe.”

Keith Wildman runs the popular Record Cafe in North Parade, and his bar has been heavily affected by restrictions, being a small venue with limited outdoor space.

He said that reopening is going to be a “step into the unknown” and making people feel safe will remain a priority.

While standing and being served at the bar will return, he said table service and face masks can stay for those who want to use them

Mr Wildman said: “It’s about striking a balance between following the rules, running a viable business and the safety of staff, customers and the general public.

“We’re still treading a fine line as the virus hasn’t gone away, but the powers that be have decided now is the time to get back to normality.

“I don’t think people will be rushing back anywhere packed, it’s a step into the unknown.

“Will there be a flood of people in North Parade? I think it will take time for people to get used to having the freedom again, but hopefully this is the start of a proper return.

“I’ve no idea what to expect, we’ve got to manage the situation of making it feel like normal and also making people feel safe.

“I’m still a bit nervous about going out or on packed trains, even with both jabs; it’s going to take some getting used to.”

Ahead of reopening, a joint message has been issued by the leaders of Bradford’s CCG, police, Chamber of Commerce, Council and the district’s director of public health.

They said: “While opening up brings freedom for many and a boost for businesses, our message is clear - Covid-19 has not gone away.

“Many people are still feeling anxious about the virus and the lifting of these restrictions, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

“We need to protect our community, our services and our staff and we will be insisting that people who use our services follow five sensible steps to keep infections as low as possible and take the pressure of our hospitals and our front line services.”

The steps are to get both doses of the vaccine, continue wearing a mask, get tested and isolate if you are unwell, mix outside if possible or keep indoor space ventilated, and to give others space.

They added: “We thank everyone for sticking to the restrictions over the past year and a half. It’s been a difficult time for everyone but we need to continue to be cautious so we stay safe and protect our communities and those who are vulnerable.”