Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas in England are opening their doors for the first time in three months after a major relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Businesses reopening on Saturday must observe strict social distancing rules.
As measures eased, Boris Johnson urged people to act responsibly, while the government’s scientific advisers said the latest step was not “risk-free”.
The health secretary has warned those who get carried away could be jailed.
Matt Hancock told the Daily Mail people were entitled to enjoy themselves at pubs, but added: “You could end up behind bars if you break the law.”
Restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas were allowed to reopen just after midnight, with some hair salons welcoming clients in the early hours, but pubs had to wait until 06:00 BST after Downing Street expressed fears of early morning partying.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said people should make the most of the easing to boost the economy, telling the Times: “We need to relearn what it’s like to go out again.”
Mr Sunak said while people should act responsibly, eating out will help protect jobs in the struggling hospitality sector.
Social distancing rules in England have also changed from 2m to “one metre plus” – meaning people should stay more than 1m apart and take additional precautions when they are less than 2m from someone else.
Other places now allowed to reopen in England include:
- Outdoor gyms, children’s playgrounds and other outdoor spaces
- Libraries, community centres, bingo halls, cinemas, museums and galleries
- Funfairs and theme parks, amusement arcades, outdoor skating rinks, social clubs and model villages
- Places of worship can open for prayers and services, including weddings with up to 30 guests
Two households of any size will also be able to meet indoors or outside, including for overnight stays.
Mr Johnson said a timetable for reopening other businesses including gyms, nail salons and night clubs would be set out next week.
However, in Leicester pubs and other facilities remain closed as the city became the first local lockdown on Monday following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Police in the city said they were preparing for a busy weekend, with more officers on duty than during a typical New Year’s Eve.
Feeling ‘normal again’
Sandra Jacobs was one of the first people through the door at her local hairdressers in Camden, north London, on Friday night, describing it as “such a relief” to be back in the salon chair.
She said her haircut made her feel “normal again”.
Her hairdresser, Carole Rickaby, said it was great to pick up the scissors again. “We’re being very cautious with aprons and facemasks, but it can be a bit of a problem,” she said. “I wear glasses, so wearing a mask as well made my glasses steam up whenever I tried to talk.
“I ended up just telling Sandra she can talk to me and I’ll just listen.”
Meanwhile, Prince William visited a village pub in Norfolk which had been closed since March.
On Friday evening, England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said people must take a “really disciplined approach” to social distancing as he warned of the risk of coronavirus spreading in pubs.
He said there was a “real possibility” of a second wave of the virus – which “goes up sharply” if people do not take social distancing measures seriously.
Speaking at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing, he said the country would see both health and economic problems as a result of the pandemic, with the government trying to walk a “narrow path”.
Ministers hope to rely on effective testing, tracing and targeted local lockdowns to contain the virus in future.
What is happening in the rest of the UK?
Each UK nation’s lockdown measures differ, including varying rules on the reopening of food and drink outlets.
In Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants could reopen on Friday.
In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 6 July, and indoor areas can be used from 15 July.
The Welsh government has promised talks with the hospitality sector about a “potential phased” reopening, but no dates have yet been given.