Cautious reopening for English pubs and hairdressers as country eases COVID-19 lockdown
English pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers reopened their doors on Saturday as the country further eased coronavirus lockdown measures.
Pubs have been closed since late March when the United Kingdom first locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country has since eased up on restrictions later than other countries after suffering the worst outbreak in Europe with more than 280,000 cases and 44,000 deaths.
The easing of restrictions on Saturday included hairdressers, outdoor gyms and playgrounds, hotels, cinemas, museums, art galleries, arcades, libraries, and community centres.
Queues formed outside hairdressers as places reopened with mandatory masks and new distancing measures in place, as in other countries that have eased lockdowns.
Several pubs contacted by Dailyrater said they were very busy as people rushed to celebrate the reopening.
But other pub managers said that they planned to reopen next week or later this month due to concerns over weekend crowding that could put restaurant workers at risk.
Ellie Grainger, a manager at London pub The Lyric, said that controlling how many people could enter the toilets (just one person at any given time) was proving difficult.
It's one of the several measures put in place by the government to encourage social distancing.
The other measures include keeping tables one metre from others, making sure people wear masks when not seated with their group, frequent cleaning and hand washing, and making sure there are queue points to further encourage distancing.
Those who go to pubs will also have to leave their contact information as part of the National Health Service (NHS)'s Test and Trace system, so that if there is a confirmed coronavirus case, guests can be contacted.
Grainger said her team had spent a few days training to make sure that the new measures were in place. "It's not too busy at the moment," she added on Saturday afternoon, but she said that it would get busier.
"It feels normal but it’s not normal," said Chris Johnson, a manager at the High Cross Pub in Tottenham. "I think everybody is relieved [to be back] but everybody is still concerned."
Johnson said the team spent nearly two weeks ensuring that they were ready to reopen and said that most guests on Saturday sat outside as there were very few places available inside. The pub opened at midday and he said the return was largely relaxed without queues.
It's a staggered reopening for most, with several pubs choosing to open later than the July 4 date.
Young's is a group that runs 200 pubs and hotels throughout the country and has plans to reopen from Monday July 20th.
"We are currently absorbing the updated guidelines from the government regarding the re-opening of the hospitality sector...and we can’t wait to welcome you back responsibly from this date," the company said in a statement.
Hairdressers also had queues outside as many people showed up to get their first haircut since lockdown began in late March.
Alba Daja, who runs the ladies' section at Northfields Barber, said she was "a little bit anxious" to return to work. She said that people had queued outside because no one was allowed to wait inside the shop.
"It’s not as busy as we thought," Daja said, adding that it had taken a long time for the team to put new measures into place, which includes distancing inside the shop, wearing visors and increasing cleaning.
England's reopening comes as the virus transmission has gone down significantly but officials have warned that there are risks with easing up on distancing rules.
Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to go to pubs, he also warned everyone to continue distancing.
"We’ve worked so hard and together saved so many lives. Stick to the rules this weekend, keep apart from others and wash your hands several times a day," he tweeted.
Many experts have said that dropping the two metre distancing rule and opening bars simultaneously runs the risk of a second wave.