Shortly after a stroke at midnight Monday, 12 select establishments in England served their first drink since they were forced to close in January, and more than a year after the first three national barriers were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Late in the morning, thousands of gyms, beauty salons and retail stores opened their doors for the first time in months, reviving life on long-frozen streets in a state of suspended animation.
Thousands of other pubs have resumed operations at noon, and with the return of one of the UK’s most beloved establishments, the pub, even if it is restricted to outdoor service, the country has taken the first major step in reopening in stages, which is set to culminate on June 21. When the government said it hoped to lift almost all restrictions in England.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland follow separate but similar schedules, according to which some of the restrictions will remain relaxed on Monday in England for some time.
Despite the cold weather with occasional blows of snow, the moment was greeted with a fervor born of more than a year of deprivation – as the previously unimaginable idea of enlisting for a government decision became a way of life.
Crowds lined up outside stores, bars began selling beer mugs at midnight Sunday, and hairdressers welcomed desperate customers on Monday.
“It’s good to be back,” Matthew McGuinness, 21, a student told Reuters at the large Fox-on-the-Hill Garden in Witherspoon, south London. “We planned last night to come here for breakfast, to have a drink. I don’t want to work behind the counter here tonight. It’d be surreal.”
The resumption of economic activities on Monday marked the second phase of the easing plan announced by the British Prime Minister in February. The first phase, which began on March 8, was to reopen schools and universities. Since March 29, meetings of up to six people are also allowed in the fresh air and outdoor sports for children and adults.
Bars and restaurants will also be able to offer outdoor service from Monday, with indoor service not permitted until May 17, at least.
After imposing a strict quarantine in late December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening trade on Monday was a “big step” toward freedom, but asked people to act responsibly, as the coronavirus remains a threat.
“I urge everyone to continue to act responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we go ahead with our vaccination program,” said Boris, who has finally cut his hair. Chills than usual, Monday morning.
The resilience plan consists of four phases, with five-week intervals in between – the first four phases to assess the impact of changes in restrictions and another week to warn the public and businesses to prepare for the next phase. The final stage, when most restrictions are lifted, should begin only after June 21. The measures are valid throughout the country.
Maintaining the announced schedule will depend on four factors: the continued success of the vaccination; Evidence that vaccines reduce hospitalizations and deaths; No further increase in infection rates, which would burden health services; There is no sudden danger of new variants of the virus.
Yet pushing people to spend is crucial to the UK’s recovery after official data showed that 2020 was the worst year for its economy in more than three centuries, with a 9.8% drop in GDP.
As the sun rose, dozens of people lined up outside Primark in English cities like Birmingham and outside JD Sports on Oxford Street in London, without being intimidated by the unusual cold.
Department store chain John Lewis said dishes and gifts were the most popular, as customers prepared to welcome friends and family again. In the re-opening race, John Lewis also saw a jump of over 200% in sales of dresses.
In Thorpe Park near London, visitors rushed to the Games when they reopened. Customers in bar gardens said they dressed in thermal clothing to withstand the cold.
In north London, manager Maggie Grave has reopened Beaucatcher hair salon with a long list of reservations.
“I am very excited to see my clients, find out how they are doing and give them the satisfaction after styling their hair,” said Griff. “Today feels like a hairdresser’s birthday. Congratulations have arrived: emails, SMS, WhatsApp, and even neighbors on the street wishing good luck and happiness. It feels great. Now I can’t wait to get to the bar.”
Hundreds of thousands of companies have closed their doors since the beginning of January, when England entered a third quarantine to contain the outbreak of infections caused by the “Kent” type of virus.
With more than 120,000 deaths due to the Coronavirus, the United Kingdom has the fifth highest death rate in terms of absolute numbers. But the rapid vaccination campaign, which has already provided the first dose of the immune system to more than half of the adult population, has helped reduce deaths by more than 95% and cases by more than 90% since the peak of January, paving the way for a way to gradually reopen.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are decrypting the encryption at a different pace set by their governments. Non-essential stores, such as household goods and fashion chains, reopened in Wales and England on Monday, although stores in Scotland have to wait until April 26.