THE owners of the world's oldest aquarium are urging the government not to leave them behind as they begin to plan for life after lockdown.

Brighton Sea Life bosses want the attraction to be able to reopen at the same time non-essential retailers are allowed to fling open their doors as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

This comes after indoor entertainment venues in Tier 3 areas were forced to stay closed following the second national lockdown in December, while all shops were allowed to reopen.

As a result, there are concerns that Sea Life Brighton and other entertainment venues could be ordered to remain shut despite having a "multitude of Covid-19 precautions" in place, while all retailers are able to begin trading again.

Sea Life Brighton general manager Neil Harris said: “We are fully behind the national effort to overcome Covid-19. But as the government begins the review of lockdown and looks to reopen the economy we are calling for indoor entertainment attractions like Sea Life Brighton to be treated the same as non-essential retail - and when they are allowed to reopen we should be able to open as well.

Claws launches at Sea Life Brighton. photo ©Julia Claxton.

Claws launches at Sea Life Brighton. photo ©Julia Claxton.

"Our guests have always been able to spend quality time and create lasting memories with their loved ones at our attractions and now, more than ever, Merlin has an important role to play in promoting the wellbeing of our visitors in a safe and low-risk environment."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lay out his "roadmap" to lifting lockdown restrictions on Monday, having already stated his desire to reopen schools from March 8.

However, he has stipulated that this move is dependant on data showing Covid-19 infection rates are dropping and good progress is being made with the UK's mass vaccine roll-out.

After schools, it is expected the next areas of easing will be non-essential shops and the rules on outdoor recreation and socialising.

Sports such as tennis and golf, where social distancing is easier, are also set to be allowed in April, national newspapers have reported.

Mr Harris added: "Our attractions can help promote healthier, happier and more connected communities, while addressing many of the most pressing health, social and environmental challenges we will face following the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We know it will be an invaluable benefit to these communities for us to reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so."

Sea Life Brighton.

Sea Life Brighton.

Mr Harris is calling for some indoor entertainment venues such as Sea Life Brighton to be among the earlier industry groups to be allowed to reopen, arguing that there are plenty of measures in place to keep customers safe.

He said: "Our attractions are fully Covid-secure and have a range of safety precautions in place, including pre-booking, temperature checks, reduced capacity and a one way flow system with social distancing throughout."

Mr Harris said Sea Life Brighton is also asking the government to keep the reduction in the VAT rate to five per cent and to extend the business rates holiday.

He said: “Sea Life Brighton is a proud member of the local community and is 150 years old next year making it the oldest aquarium in the world, providing employment and boosting the local economy and we look forward to being able to welcome back our guests as soon as we are able to do so.”

Lulu and Gulliver are reunited at Sea Life Brighton

Lulu and Gulliver are reunited at Sea Life Brighton

Addressing plans to ease restrictions in an interview last weekend, Mr Johnson said: "I'm going to ask you to wait a little longer, give us more time to look at the data about what's happening, look at the way the numbers are coming down and also study, I think very importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines.

"Are they working in the way that we hope they are? Making sure that they're really helping, along with the lockdown, to drive down the incidents. That's the key thing.

"I'm optimistic. I won't hide it from you, I'm optimistic. But we have to be cautious."