RESIDENTS have been urged to continue to follow Coronavirus rules as businesses reopen.

City and town centres across Hampshire looked busy yesterday as pubs, hairdressers, barbers, gyms and non-essential shops reopened.

The move is part of the  government's  road map out of lockdown.

But health bosses are calling on residents to continue to follow the rules - even after vaccination.

Dr Debbie Chase, the director of public health in Southampton, said: "I’m really pleased that restrictions are easing. We are all hoping for some degree of normality again. Now we must all continue to maintain hands-face-space requirements as we are out and about – even after vaccination. Please adhere to the advice and guidance within shops, leisure centres and other establishments and we can enjoy our freedoms and stay safe together."

She also thanked residents for sticking  to the rules over the past months and added: "There will be some people who will be excited about easing of restrictions, and others who will be worried. People will need to take this at their own pace, for some this will mean gradually doing more. Whatever you are feeling, and wanting to do it’s important that we are all mindful of each other and continue to keep ourselves, families and communities safe. So follow the guidance and maintain hands-face-space requirements.”

Dr Simon Bryant, the Hampshire director of public health, also urged people to get into the habit of testing at home twice a week as tests are now available for all residents.

He said:"To keep ourselves and our communities safe, we must all keep following the guidance and remember that every little action counts towards minimising the risk of infection: wash or sanitise your hands frequently, wear a face covering and maintain a safe 2m distance from anyone not in your household or bubble. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or who were formerly shielding should take extra care to keep themselves safe, by strictly observing the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance and shopping at quieter times, if possible."

Southampton MPs encouraged residents to support local businesses. Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, said: "I know that businesses are overjoyed to be able to trade again and would encourage my constituents to get out to the shops."

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, also encouraged residents to support businesses and "particularly the smaller ones".

He added: "However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, so remember to follow all of the current guidelines  and don't get upset with retail and hospitality staff who are enforcing these rules to keep us all safe."

It comes as Southampton City Council and city businesses joined forces to implement a number of safety measures across the city. Cllr Lorna Fielker, cabinet member for health at the city council, said: "We all want to get back to doing more of what we love but we must remember that COVID-19 has not gone away. While it remains a threat, we must proceed with cautious optimism. We must stick to the guidance ."