Rollercoaster rides, early morning pints and long barber shop queues – this is how England is emerging after three months of coronavirus lockdown.
Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and theme parks have reopened with strict social distancing rules.
But ministers have urged caution and England’s chief medical officer said the latest step was not “risk-free”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the reopening of businesses, saying it was “good news” people are working again.
On a visit to The Bell and Crown in Chiswick, west London, Mr Sunak said the almost half a million people who worked in Britain’s pubs and bars were “helping us all to enjoy summer safely”.
Overnight stays are also allowed for the first time since lockdown started, with campsites and holiday accommodation allowed to reopen.
Restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas were allowed to reopen just after midnight, with some hair salons welcoming clients in the early hours. But pubs were made to wait until 06:00 BST.
Among those heading for an early drink was Frank Green, who said he was looking forward to “the banter with everyone” at his local, The Shropshire Arms in Chester.
“I felt a bit anxious coming in for the first time today. I think it will be fine, the landlord is very good – he doesn’t stand for any nonsense,” he said.
But some 31% of bars, pubs and restaurants are not opening yet, according to the Night-Time Industries Association, amid fears for safety and warnings while the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said as many as half of England’s pubs might stay shut this weekend.
Camra national chairman Nik Antona said: “The government have not really been helpful with their guidance, leaving it to the last minute in a lot of cases.”
He added some pubs “want to see what’s going to happen” before opening their doors.
The Tollington pub in north London, where some staff members had been “at death’s door” with Covid-19, is one of those staying shut. Manager Martin Whelan, said he could not “in good conscience open the pub when contracting a deadly virus is still possible under these guidelines”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the government’s messaging as “all over the place”.
He told TimesRadio: “You have had some government messaging saying go out and have a drink, other messaging saying be responsible, be cautious – the messaging, I think, has been very poor over the last few weeks.”
Meanwhile, queues have been forming outside hairdressers and barbers.
Sandra Jacobs was one of the first people through the door at her local hairdressers in Camden, north London, after midnight, describing it as “such a relief” to be back in the salon chair.
“My hair was everywhere. I’d been wearing hats to hide it,” she said, adding that her new haircut made her feel “normal again”.
Her hairdresser, Carole Rickaby, said it was great to pick up the scissors again. “We’re being very cautious with aprons and facemasks, but it can be a bit of a problem,” she said.
Other places now allowed to reopen in England include:
- Outdoor gyms, children’s playgrounds and other outdoor spaces
- Libraries, community centres, bingo halls, cinemas, museums and galleries
- Funfairs, amusement arcades, outdoor skating rinks, social clubs and model villages
- Places of worship can open for prayers and services and weddings are allowed to take place
Two households are now able to meet indoors or outside, including for overnight stays – although they have to maintain social distancing – and campsites and hotels are allowed to reopen.
People in England are still urged to stay 2m apart, but the new “one metre plus” guidance means they can get closer if they use “mitigation” measures, such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face.
There was heavy traffic on the M5 near Exeter and long queues on the A303 near Stonehenge, as hundreds of families headed for their first weekend away since lockdown began.
Devon and Cornwall Police have warned drivers that roads are wet and “very busy” after tourism bosses in Cornwall said 80,000 visitors were expected this weekend.
Despite the easing of restrictions, public health experts are continuing to warn people to be cautious to avoid a second UK wave of the epidemic.
Prof Robert West, an epidemiologist from University College London, told BBC Breakfast: “The virus still is with us. We are looking at around 20,000 new infections a week and around 1,000 deaths a week and the rates aren’t coming down very fast.”
The latest figures, released on Saturday, showed a further 67 people died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 44,198.
This is a big moment. Hospitality chiefs have described it as an important development for the national psyche.
But it’s also a moment when health and economic concerns collide.
Trade body Hospitality UK estimates that 53% of pubs and bars and 47% of restaurants will reopen this weekend generating a total – they hope – of nine million visits.
But while a sector that employs three million people is keen to reopen, many are anxious. Will too many customers return to manage venues safely or too few to make it economically worthwhile?
Social distancing measures will both reduce capacity and increase front-line costs.
Three-quarters of businesses expect to run their businesses at a loss this year and the industry estimates that even if this weekend goes well, the sector could lose 320,000 jobs.
It is a high-stakes gamble and the government will be watching nervously to see how the public responds and behaves.
That will ultimately determine whether we are getting a sufficient economic bang for the health risk buck that medical experts say we are inevitably spending this weekend.
Meanwhile, newlyweds Louise Arnold and Jennifer Wilson, both 22, are believed to be the first couple to marry in England after restrictions were eased – tying the knot at 00:01 BST in Cheshire.
However, in Leicester, the streets were largely deserted as pubs and other venues remain closed after the city became the first local lockdown on Monday, following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
What is happening in the rest of the UK?
Each UK nation’s lockdown measures differ, including varying rules on the reopening of food and drink outlets.
In Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants have been able to open since Friday.
In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 6 July, and indoor areas can be used from 15 July.
In Wales, pubs and restaurants can open outdoors from 13 July but indoor services will remain closed for now.
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