LONDON (Reuters) – People finally got to drink in a pub, eat a meal at a restaurant or get a haircut on Saturday for the first time in over three months as England took its biggest steps yet towards resuming normal life.
A worker carries a beer at the Holland Tringham Wetherspoons pub after it was reopened after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, United Kingdom, July 4, 2020. REUTERS / Hannah McKay
Pubs were allowed to start serving from 6 o’clock, causing concern about abandonment of what the media called a “Super Saturday” of coronavirus restrictions that were facilitated. Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at midnight.
In another relaxation of the locking rules that were first introduced in late March, two households can now meet indoors as long as social distance is maintained and overnight stays are allowed.
The Sun newspaper predicted that 15 million pints (8.5 million liters) of beer would drop in England on Saturday, though some pub guests may be deterred by a forecast of alarming weather.
Police said they were “absolutely prepared” for the pubs to resume, while hospitals have been warned to prepare for a New Year’s Eve weekend.
“There is an element of decompression going on, especially with younger people who have had some very responsible parents keeping them in recent weeks,” Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, told BBC Radio.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to behave responsibly and respect social distance regulations as the risk of coronavirus resuscitation remains. But he also stressed the importance of supporting businesses.
“The success of these companies, the livelihood of those who trust them and ultimately the financial health of the entire country depend on every one of us acting responsibly,” he said at a news conference on Friday. “We can’t leave them.”
Saturday’s rule changes only apply to England as the decentralized countries in the UK – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have set their own timetables to ease lockdown restrictions.
Pub guests will find the atmosphere quite different from the usual Saturday night.
The number will be limited, no one will be allowed to stand in the bar and there will be no live music. Protectors will also need to provide their details to allow trackers to identify them if someone later tests positive.
JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L), one of the largest chains, said it had invested £ 11 million ($ 13.7 million) in security measures. Most of their pubs in England opened at the usual time at 8am. It does not take bookings but said at busy times the number would be checked by the staff.
Reporting by Paul Sandle and James Davey; Editing by Stephen Addison and Frances Kerry