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Customers return to shopping centres as England eases out of lockdown

David Hughes and Sam Blewett
·5-min read

Watch: Eager customers flock back to pubs, shops and salons in England

England’s shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes reopened on Monday as the coronavirus lockdown eased.

Boris Johnson urged the nation to “behave responsibly” as life took another step back towards normality, with indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos also welcoming customers.

Wales was also enjoy renewed freedoms from Monday, with non-essential retail reopened and border restrictions eased to permit travel again with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Remaining school pupils returned to face-to-face teaching in Wales and Northern Ireland, in moves being echoed in Scotland as some pupils return from their Easter breaks.

The “stay at home” order in Northern Ireland also ended as the number of people permitted to meet outdoors increased from six to 10.

April snow showers made al fresco dining a chilly prospect in parts of southern England but the wintry conditions appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm as customers queued outside shops and waited for hairdressers to cut locks after months without a trim.

Coronarvirus – Mon Apr 12, 2021
Stylist Danny Law with customer Amy Smith, who is visiting a hairdresser for the first time in more than a year, at the Strand & Lock salon in Birmingham (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Despite the relaxation in lockdown rules, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.

The Prime Minister urged caution during the “major step forward” as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.

“I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” Mr Johnson said.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The need for continued vigilance was underlined by former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who highlighted a surge in cases in Chile despite a successful vaccination campaign.

He told Sky News: “From the point of view of the population itself, we’re all dying to get out of lockdown.

“From the point of view of the epidemic, I think it’s all a little bit more worrying.”

He added: “Chile is a country where the rate of vaccination amongst the population was third highest in the world – they were ahead of us in terms of the number of people who have had the vaccine – and they’re suddenly now into a third wave.”

Modelling by Government advisers in the UK has suggested that Monday’s relaxation will not result in a surge of cases that would put pressure on the NHS, but it is “highly likely” that there will be a further resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths after subsequent steps along the road map out of lockdown.

The fanfare for the easing of restrictions has been muted by the national mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr Johnson postponed his celebratory pint and Government communications have been pared back to essential messages after Philip’s death on Friday at the age of 99.

Spray tanner at work after midnight on Monday
Secret Spa tan artist Magdelaine Gibson with a client shortly after midnight (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Secret Spa co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks, who opened her beauty company’s at-home salon services up for clients at midnight, said Monday’s bookings are set to double the company’s best-ever day to date.

She added: “It’s so amazing. It’s just been such a long time coming.”

In England, pubs and restaurants have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.

But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

Coronavirus – Mon Apr 12, 2021
Friends Sue Bell (left) and Pippa Ingram with their drinks after being the first customers back into the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

At the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, believed to be the biggest pub in the country, thirsty customers cheered as the first pints were served.

Pippa Ingram, 51, and Sue Bell, 55, were presented with the first drinks on a chilly morning in Ramsgate, Kent at the Royal Victoria Pavilion, believed to be the largest in the country.

Ms Ingram said: “Absolutely delicious. It’s not gonna last long at all! That is banging.”

In response to the easing of restriction, the Metropolitan Police said it will be “stepping up” patrols in high footfall areas from Monday.

Coronarvirus – Mon Apr 12, 2021
Early-morning shoppers gather outside the JD Sports store in Oxford Street, London, waiting for the store to reopen (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jane Connors, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, said: “The Met is ready to welcome back people to the streets of London. We will be stepping up our patrols to busy high footfall areas, to look out for everyone’s safety and to disrupt any criminal activity.

“Of course, where we need to take action against those who dangerously flout the rules we will do. While the case rate has declined in London, we have seen the concerning position in northern Europe. It is important that we all stick to the rules so further lockdowns, or restrictions, are avoided.”

The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the “rule of six” – if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.

After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.

Around 61% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14% have had both doses.

Mr Johnson welcomed a “record-breaking day” for second doses after figures reported on Sunday stated a rise of 475,230 jabs.

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?