Boris Johnson this morning urged the nation to exercise ‘caution and restraint’ following raucous scenes last night as drinkers packed into bars, restaurants and town centres to toast the latest easing of Covid restrictions.
The Prime Minister warned that going full-throttle risked derailing the pandemic roadmap and stressed that lockdown – not vaccinations – were driving down infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
‘At the moment I cannot see any reason for us to change the roadmap or deviate from the targets we’ve set ourselves,’ he said. ‘But it is very very important that if we are to get there in the way we want, that people continue to be cautious, and exercise restraint.’
He sounded the note of caution as millions of Britons woke up to their first pub hangover of the year after taking advantage of the government loosening tight Covid regulations to hit beer gardens.
This morning plenty were nursing sore heads and reaching for the pints of water as alcohol-induced headaches were reported nationwide.
But the ill-effects were celebrated by some as a sign of the country’s progress in getting nearer to normal.
One drinker declared ‘Happy to announce that I have a hangover after a night in a pub’ while another celebrated a ‘cracking day’.Meanwhile one reveller spoke for many when she said ‘The hangover from April 12 is really like no other’.
Dubbed the Glorious Twelfth, yesterday also heralded the return of hairdressers, gyms and non-essential shops.
Yet the PM, sporting his own trimmed blonde locks, warned: ‘Clearly yesterday people have been able to go to the pub, to go shopping, get a haircut and so on, and that’s great.
‘The numbers are down, of infections and hospitalisations and deaths. But it is very important for everyone to understand that the reduction in these numbers has not been achieved by the vaccination programme – it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic.
‘And so, yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.
‘So, as we unlock the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, and sadly more hospitalisations and deaths and people have just got to understand that.’
Two women are seen on the ground in a street as people crowd the Soho area last night as pint glasses littered the road
Arrests as outdoor drinking and dining resumes in London for the Glorious 12th as lockdown restricts were eased last night
The police try to clear the streets of Soho at 11pm as pubs, restaurants and bars close after the first day open after lockdown
One man was seen appearing to be detained by three masked police officers, who held his arms behind his back as he was against a railing
An ambulance was called to take away one lady who was found slumped on a pavement in Birmingham late last night
One drinker got carried away – by her friend – in Birmingham as young and old joined together to enjoy restrictions easing
Drinking in the street in the Soho area of London last night as coronavirus restrictions eased and the celebrations started
A group of friends drink tequila at a table outside a bar in the Northern Quarter of central Manchester last night
Officers tried to enforce social distancing in nightlife hub Soho – where post-lockdown scenes of chaos emerged last year as hoardes of lockdown-weary partygoers took to the streets when restrictions eased.
One man looked to have been detained by three masked officers who held his arms behind his back as he was pushed against a railing last night. The man was later seen being led away.
England – which took its next cautious step to freedom yesterday by allowing pubs and restaurants to reopen to customers outdoors – saw an increase in cases but no trend was visible in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, which all have different restrictions enforced.
For some parts of the country this was the first time hospitality had been opened since November last year since they were plunged into the strict and universally unpopular tiers restrictions.
Soho appeared to be back to normal last night despite it being less than one day out of the coronavirus lockdown measures
Soho welcomed back drinkers in their hundreds who did their best to social distance despite the huge numbers out and about
Revellers partied the night away in Birmingham’s Arcadian complex in the city’s China Town on the first night of lifted rules
Forgotten how it’s done? One reveller was pictured appearing to inhale his two drinks through his nose as he returned to bars
Revellers last night enjoyed a taste of lockdown freedom with their first pub drink in four months, as England lifted rules
What restrictions have now been eased from the strict lockdown?
- All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and swimming pools, with no group classes allowed.
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service, but will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.
- Mass testing to be available, with everyone urged to take two tests per week.
- New care home rules will allow residents to have two visitors, rather than just one.
- Self-catering accommodation, including campsites, can reopen, but hotels and B&Bs must remain closed until at least May 17.
- Shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding.
- The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
- Public buildings can reopen, as can outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
- Controversial hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol will be dropped.
- Clothes shops will be allowed to reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.
Still banned –
Until May 17 at the earliest: Gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors, with the rule of six and two-household rule indoors; pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors; and controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted.
Outdoor events will be allowed to have a capacity of 50 per cent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower; while special provisions will be made for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be spaced out, with up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.
Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events, including wakes. Indoor gatherings like exercise classes will be given the go ahead.
Until June 21 at the earliest: All legal limits on social contact will be lifted and nightclubs reopened.
Number 10’s scientific advisers have always warned easing restrictions would cause coronavirus infections to rise by allowing people to mix together but because millions of people have been vaccinated, the NHS shouldn’t be overwhelmed.
But experts tracking England’s outbreak say none of the planned steps taken so far – reopening schools on March 8 and dropping strict stay at home guidance on March 29 – have caused any noticeable problems.
Experts say it is ‘entirely possible’ the U-turn in the figures could be down to the Easter bank holiday. It takes up to seven days for people to show symptoms of Covid and get their test results back.
Revellers last weekend flocked to parks to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the first weekend of England’s eased restrictions to make the most of the rule of six to see family and friends.
Dr Simon Clarke, an infectious disease expert at the University of Reading, said the daily figure were an important reminder that the numbers are not ‘guaranteed to go down’ and that timing-wise the spike coincided with Easter.
The rise may also be explained by recording delays, with testing numbers known to dip on public holidays due to the way swabs are recorded and because fewer people come forward for them.
Meanwhile, a group of girls were seen cheering, singing and celebrating as they enjoyed their first night out in four months.
Crowds were seen gathered in Newcastle however, where pictures captured a raucous party-goer lying in the road with drink-in-hand as revellers watched on in surprise.
In Manchester and Leeds pub-goers were dressed in their glad rags as they enjoyed their first night on the town since the lockdown measures were imposed in January.
Police officers had earlier been seen patrolling popular Old Compton Street and neighbouring areas, after revellers had flocked there to enjoy al-fresco dining and drinks.
Several West End streets were closed to traffic between 5pm-11pm to create outdoor seating areas as part of measures implemented by Westminster City Council to support hospitality businesses.
Pictures and videos being shared online show people packed onto tables laden with food and drinks, while several dozen more stood on the streets cheering the first night of pubs and bars reopening.
Attila Kulcsar, a media communications manager, said the crowds felt ‘like a return to the ‘real’ Soho of the 1990s’.
‘Tonight’s atmosphere beats the whole of last summer… it really is like how I imagine VE Day,’ the 54-year-old said.
Pubs up and down the country threw open their beer gardens and outdoor drinking areas for the first time since early January, while shops, gyms and hairdressers were finally allowed to reopen. Pictured: Police attempted to maintain order in Soho last night
But as day turned to night, and the drinks flowed, rowdy revellers faced a crackdown from police. Officers were seen attempting to enforce social distancingi n London’s famous nightlife district of Soho. Pictured: Revellers enjoyed a night out in Manchester after restrictions were lifted
Crowds were seen gathered in Newcastle, where pictures show a raucous party-goer lying in the road with drink-in-hand as revellers watched on in surprise
In Leeds a group of girls were seen cheering and celebrating as they enjoyed their first night out in four months
Britons partied in the streets of Soho on Monday night as measures were lifted on pubs and bars in England for the first time since January
It was hugs and celebrations for revellers in Soho on Monday night, as hundreds took to the street in celebration of the easing of lockdown measures
Groups gathered in the streets to enjoy a drink in scenes one person described as being ‘like VE Day’
‘It’s almost like watching Hogarth paintings come to life in 2021. There is a wonderfully raucous hysteria everywhere. It’s very celebratory.
‘There is very little social distancing. A distinct sense that people feel the Covid restrictions have ended.
‘There are lots of police around Soho as well as Covid Marshalls, but there is no word from them about social distancing… if anything they seem to be joining in the festivities.’
Westminster City Council said it was aware of ‘isolated incidents of crowding’ and that it was working with businesses to ensure they are operating ‘responsibly and safely in line with guidance’.
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