England’s partial reopening of pubs and restaurants on Monday marked the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions.
People across England took advantage of new rules allowing pubs and restaurants to drinks and food outside.
Many people braved ongoing cold temperatures and raised a glass just after midnight when pubs were allowed to open.
The relaxing of measures were welcomed by the hard-hit hospitality industry after repeated closures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the easing of restrictions “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom.”
“I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” he said, adding that he would make a toast the latest easing of COVID rules with a celebratory pint at a pub beer garden.
What else is reopened in the UK?
In England and Wales, non-essential shops and beauty salons can now resume business with health and hygiene measures in place.
Gyms, zoos and hairdressers in England can also reopen. Long lines have already formed outside shops around the country.
Shoppers were seen queuing outside fast fashion retail chain Primark in Birmingham for its 7 a.m. reopening this morning.
Students in Scotland and Wales are returning to school full-time, while Northern Ireland’s “stay-at-home” order is ending.
Mosques, meanwhile, are preparing for the start of Ramadan this week, following a year without traditional community and family gatherings.
Secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, said the UK’s resumption of Ramadan prayers could give worshippers “a renewed optimism.”
How have small businesses handled the pandemic?
But Monday’s reopening came too late for some businesses. Months of lockdowns forced hundreds of smaller businesses to close down altogether, especially local English village pubs, a popular gathering spot for communities.
About 2,000 pubs shut their doors for good during the pandemic, with many workers losing their jobs, estimated the British Beer and Pub Association in March.
Johnson warned people must “behave responsibly” and continue to adhere to health measures to “suppress COVID.”
More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
On Sunday, the UK reported its lowest daily total of COVID-related deaths since 14 September.
mvb/wmr (Reuters, AFP)