irishtimes– People across England celebrated the easing of coronavirus restrictions on Monday, flocking to outdoor spaces in bars and restaurants despite snow showers and arctic winds. Queues formed outside barbershops as early as 8am as hairdressers, gyms and libraries reopened for the first time in months.
Boris Johnson was among the first to get a haircut, with a barber coming to Downing Street early on Monday to trim the prime minister’s increasingly unruly thatch.
From Monday, all shops were allowed to reopen, along with hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, spas, zoos, libraries, theme parks and community centres. Pubs and restaurants can serve customers outdoors and municipal authorities have allowed them to use parking spaces to set out tables in the street.
Mr Johnson said the easing of restrictions represented a major step on a “roadmap to freedom” for Britain.
“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.
“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”
Fewer than half of Britain’s pubs have enough outdoor space to allow them to reopen and Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s pub group, sounded a cautious note.
“Today is just a very small step towards getting our business back to anywhere near viability. However, let’s not get too excited as we still cannot serve indoors. Even on May 17th, we will not be trading anywhere near normal,” he said.
“The key day for UK pubs, restaurants, the economy and jobs is ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21. What is for sure, we need the prime minister to honour his commitment to the nation to ensure that June 21st is indeed ‘Freedom Day’. He must not be allowed to backtrack on that commitment.”
The government aims to reopen all indoor venues on June 21st, but a review of social distancing restrictions will determine how pubs, clubs and restaurants will be able to operate. Other reviews will determine rules for international travel and whether vaccine passports will be introduced for domestic services.
Britain’s health department said that people in their 40s will be offered vaccinations this week and that the Moderna vaccine will be rolled out from the middle of this month.
“It is an incredible achievement that more than 32 million people have received their first vaccine, with over 7 million receiving their second jab,” NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said.
“While there is still a way to go with our vaccination programme, we welcome the progress being made, with the jabs due to be rolled out to the over-40s this week and all priority groups now offered a first dose.”