People across England are beginning their first night out in three months, as coronavirus restrictions have eased.
Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants as well as hairdressers, cinemas and theme parks have reopened with strict social distancing rules.
But ministers have urged caution and England’s chief medical officer said the latest step was not “risk-free”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the reopening of businesses, saying it was “good news” people are working again.
On a visit to The Bell and Crown in Chiswick, west London, Mr Sunak said the almost half a million people who worked in Britain’s pubs and bars were “helping us all to enjoy summer safely”.
Overnight stays in England are also allowed for the first time since lockdown started, with campsites and holiday accommodation also reopening.
But some 31% of bars, pubs and restaurants have stayed shut, according to the Night-Time Industries Association, amid fears for safety and concerns over how to implement social distancing guidance.
Campaign for Real Ale national chairman Nik Antona said: “The government have not really been helpful with their guidance, leaving it to the last minute in a lot of cases.” Some pubs “want to see what’s going to happen” before opening their doors, he said.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the government’s messaging as “all over the place”.
He told TimesRadio: “You have had some government messaging saying go out and have a drink, other messaging saying be responsible, be cautious – the messaging, I think, has been very poor over the last few weeks.”
At a pub in Newcastle, punters are enjoying their first “proper pint” in more than three months. “The atmosphere is a bit different… that was expected. But everyone’s having a good time,” one customer told the BBC’s Fiona Trott.
“The regulations are good and everyone is sticking with them, by the looks of things,” said his companion, saying At a pub in Newcastle, punters were enjoying their first “proper pint” in more than three months.
“The atmosphere is a bit different… that was expected. But everyone’s having a good time,” one customer told the BBC’s Fiona Trott.
It’s a very different sort of Saturday evening from pre-lockdown expectations. Customers are expected to book a table in advance, to register their details on arrival and to stay no more than three hours..
Other rule changes that came into effect on Saturday include allowing two households to meet indoors or outside, including for overnight stays – although they have to maintain social distancing.
People in England are still urged to stay 2m apart, but the new “one metre plus” guidance means they can get closer if they use “mitigation” measures, such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face.
Despite the easing of restrictions, public health experts are continuing to warn people to be cautious to avoid a second UK wave of the epidemic.
Prof Robert West, an epidemiologist from University College London, told the BBC: “We are looking at around 20,000 new infections a week and around 1,000 deaths a week and the rates aren’t coming down very fast.”
The latest figures, released on Saturday, showed a further 67 people had died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 44,198.
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