People were finally allowed to drink in a pub, have a meal in a restaurant or get a haircut on Saturday for the first time in over three months as England took its biggest steps yet towards resumption of normal life.
Pubs were permitted to start serving from 6 a.m., sparking worries of over-indulgence on what the media dubbed a “Super Saturday” of coronavirus restrictions being eased. Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at the stroke of midnight.
In another relaxation of lockdown rules that were first imposed in late March two households can now meet indoors as long as social distancing is maintained, and overnight stays are allowed.
The Sun newspaper predicted that 15 million pints (8.5 million litres) of beer would be sunk in England on Saturday, though some pub-goers may be deterred by a forecast of unsettled weather.
Police said they were “absolutely prepared” for the pubs reopening, while hospitals have been warned to prepare for a New Year’s Eve-style weekend.
“There’s an element of decompression going on, particularly with younger people who’ve had some very responsible parents keeping them in over recent weeks,” Marc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, told BBC radio.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to behave responsibly and respect social distancing regulations as the risk of a resurgence of coronavirus remains. But he also stressed the importance of supporting businesses.
“The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly,” he said at a news conference on Friday. “We must not let them down.”
Saturday’s rule changes apply only to England as the devolved nations in the United Kingdom – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have been setting their own timetables for easing lockdown restrictions.
Pub-goers will find the atmosphere rather different from the usual Saturday-night scrum.
Numbers will be limited, no one will be allowed to stand at the bar and there will be no live music. Patrons will also have to give their details to allow tracers to identify them if anyone later tests positive.
JD Wetherspoon, one of the biggest chains, said it had invested £11 million pounds ($13.7 million) in safety measures. Most of its pubs in England opened at the usual time of 8a.m It is not taking bookings, but said at busy times numbers would be controlled by staff.