CHESTER Zoo's chief operating officer has said a 'whole host of changes' is being made to ensure people can visit the attraction safely when it is allowed to reopen.

Jamie Christon said the hope is to open the gates again soon, but when exactly that will be is unknown.

New features will include self-scanning ticket lanes, floor markings to clearly indicate two metre distances, multiple hand sanitisation points, a huge amount of signage and protective screens in all of our key locations and service areas.

The zoo is, of course, a huge 128 acre site but still, you’ll also notice fewer people than before.

Jamie said: "We're busy making a whole host of changes to ensure that when the times comes, and when the government makes it possible for us to do so, we’ll be ready to welcome visitors back safely. When we do reopen, it’ll be at the right time.

"The first thing people will notice is that things look a little different.

"That’s because our teams have been working hard to install an array of new, physical safety measures. 

"We're going to be heavily limiting visitor numbers each day and every single visitor, and member, must book online.

"A new area of our website has been specially built to facilitate this.

"There are a raft of other things happening too. 

"All our indoor animal habitats will remain closed, as will our restaurants and cafes, but our outdoor food and drink kiosks will be open and we’ve added more outdoor picnic areas, while lots of fully trained staff will be dotted around to ensure people keep well apart.

"Hard surfaces, such as touchscreen computers and cash machines will be covered and out of use, and viewing windows will have one metre standoff markings around them, again to prevent touching.

"Stringent deep cleaning will also be ongoing.

"There’s no hiding from the fact that these times are tough for us. Visitor revenue is absolutely critical; it makes up about 97% of our income.

"Unlike many other charities and organisations which are able to limit their outgoings, the zoo still has incredibly high costs to ensure that each and every one of the 35,000 animals here receives the exact same level of care and attention they are accustomed to." 

Winsford Guardian:

It costs £465,000 a month just to look after all of the animals and plants – this covers feed, bedding, the wages of the animal care staff, heating animal houses and much more besides.

Weighing up the current impact of social isolation on the business, Jamie said: "Being unable to open and welcome any guests at all for so long now means we've been having to do this with little coming in.

"We have though said many times throughout this crisis that we will beat this, we will bounce back and we won’t ever stop our fight to prevent extinction.

"As ever, we are incredibly grateful to all of our staff, our members, our visitors and our vast support network for helping to protect our fantastic organisation through this. Thank you.

"Thank you so, so much."

Looking to the future, he ended: "Will a trip to Chester Zoo be the same as before? No. Will it still have that Chester Zoo magic? You bet it will!

"Stay safe and hopefully we’ll see you soon."