Under pressure from zoos warning they face an exponential threat, Mr Johnson will say at the Downing Street press conference they can reopen next week as long as they can uphold social-distancing rules.
The Prime Minister will update the nation on the easing of the restrictions on Wednesday as he tries to reopen the economy while minimising Covid-19’s rate of transmission.
The Prime Minister had been facing calls to take immediate action to support UK zoos, many of which said they would not be able to survive unless they were able to open soon
Zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen in England from June 15, Boris Johnson will announce in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown.
The move will pave the way for zoos to reopen in England alongside non-essential shops, despite schools remaining shuttered to many pupils.
He will also announce the easing of restrictions on outdoor attractions where people remain in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in cinemas, because the risk of spreading the disease is lower outside.
The announcement will come after London Zoo and other institutions across the nation warned they may face permanent closure if they were not allowed to reopen.
“This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals.”
A Downing Street official said: “People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.
The PM’s father, Stanley Johnson, had joined calls for zoos to “reopen as soon as possible” after they were ordered to close when the lockdown was imposed on March 23.
Chester Zoo bosses has also warned it is “at risk of extinction” and could end the year £24 million in debt.
On Tuesday, international conservation charity Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs London and Whipsnade zoos, said it was struggling due to dwindling income and rising costs, while it had also been turned down for a bank loan on the “misunderstanding” the Government would help.
Though the easing will be a relief, zoos will be told that they must not reopen indoor exhibitions, such as reptile houses, and must ensure amenities including cafes are takeaway only.
In response to the announcement, ZSL director general Dominic Jermey said he was delighted, adding: “We are waiting to hear more details from the Government, but our zoos are raring to go as soon as we are given the go-ahead.
“We expect to have tickets ready to book by Friday – and everyone will need to book so we can manage capacity. We hope the support we’ve seen so far for our zoos translates to visitors coming in to support us further.”
Andrew Hall, spokesperson for Biaza – British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums, said: “Biaza is obviously delighted that zoos and safari parks have been given the flexibility to reopen.
“But as a sector, we are not out of the woods. Aquariums are still closed, and zoos and safari parks have taken a real hit. For some zoos, particularly those reliant on tourism, reopening isn’t going to be financially viable for them.