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Covid lockdown eases: Celebrations as pub and shops reopen

People continued to enjoy the easing of lockdown rules well into Monday evening

For the first time in months, pub gardens, shops and hairdressers have reopened in England, as rules were also eased in the rest of the UK. Shoppers flocked to the High Street, with long queues seen outside some retailers. Other people took advantage of England’s gyms and zoos reopening. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged everyone to “behave responsibly”. Northern Ireland’s “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are being eased in Scotland and Wales. The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.

Snow showers and chilly temperatures in parts of southern England appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm for outdoor pints. Scott Westlake, landlord of the Myrtle Tavern in Leeds, said the pub had received 5,000 bookings over the next month for his new outside eating and drinking area. Mr Westlake said: “If the weather’s good, I think most people are optimistic and excited. “Atmosphere, ambience, seeing your mates, I think they (customers) are looking forward to that more than anything – and they’ll sit in a blizzard for the first few days at least.”

 

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight customers. “I’m hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said. Meanwhile, a town in Lincolnshire has introduced its own European-style pavement cafes to help boost trade. Several hospitality venues in the market town of Louth have been allowed to put seating and tables outside to serve people during the day.

Lewis Phillips, general manager of the Masons Arms, which is one of the venues involved in the Louth scheme, said: “We don’t have a lovely big beer garden. So what we’ve got out the front here is absolutely brilliant.” The prime minister had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that was postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. However, Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson did have a haircut before he paid tribute to the duke in the House of Commons.

 

Marika Smith, general manager of Hough End Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester, said all of their swimming times were already fully booked on Monday. Kelly Boad, owner of the Hair & Beauty Gallery in Warwick, opened her salon at midnight for a symbolic “first cut” of 2021, adding she is fully booked for the first few weeks. Shoppers rushed back to the High Street, as queues formed outside branches of Primark, JD Sports and TK Maxx and retailers extended their opening hours.

Another business that reopened in England was Secret Spa, which offers at-home salon and spa treatments in London, Manchester and Brighton. Co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks said it had “been such a long time coming”, saying: “Everyone has really missed the social contact of the day-to-day job and making clients happy. Long queues were not going to put shoppers off from visiting their favourite High Street retailers.

The rule changes in England from Monday include:

All shops can reopen

Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
Non-essential journeys between England and Wales are allowed
Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals
Children can attend any indoor children’s activity
Care home visitors will increase to two per resident
Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April
But the British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

 

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 returned to the classroom. The stay-at-home message has been lifted and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden. In Scotland, pupils at schools in six council areas went back to school but not everyone returned on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays.

After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students returned to face-to-face teaching on Monday. Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed.