People relished their first pub drinks in more than three months, went to restaurants and finally got haircuts on Saturday as England took its biggest steps yet towards resumption of normal life after the coronavirus lockdown.
Some pubs started serving from 6am, sparking worries of over-indulgence on what the media dubbed a "Super Saturday" of restrictions being eased. Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at the stroke of midnight.
"It's beautiful just to get back and have a pint," said Jim Martin, a 56-year old carpenter enjoying a drink at The Holland Tringham pub in south London, part of the JD Wetherspoon chain. It opened at 8am and was about three quarters full by 11.20am.
Julie Scott, a 43-year-old teacher, was there with her family for drinks and food.
"I think it's just where everyone gets to socialise and catch up with people that they haven't seen...it's nice to just get together," she said.
Others complained that the lockdown, which began in late March and has been gradually eased in recent weeks, had lasted too long.
"It's about time they opened them up," said pensioner Ron Lock.
Police chiefs worried the reopening of pubs could fuel drunken and irresponsible behaviour, while hospitals have been warned to prepare for a New Year's Eve-style weekend.
Britain has been the European country worst hit by the coronavirus, with more than 300,000 infections and an official death toll of 44,131.
Men queuing for haircuts and busy hairdressing salons were a common sight across the country.
At Savvas Barbers in Streatham, south London, healthcare assistant Benjamin Prior, 31, said he normally gets a cut every month but has had to wait four months.
The 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 restrictions.
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 rainy, windy weather.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to behave responsibly and respect social distancing regulations as the risk of a resurgence of the coronavirus remains. He also stressed the importance of supporting businesses.
Pub-goers will find the atmosphere rather different from the usual Saturday-night scrum.
Numbers are limited, no one can 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. (Reuters)
Pubs reopen and pints flow in UK as curbs ease
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