BORIS JOHNSON gave the nation some much-needed cheer yesterday by axing most of the lockdown rules.
The Prime Minister declared the “long national hibernation” is ending with a dramatic easing of coronavirus restrictions from July 4. It comes more than 100 days after the country was first ordered to close down. Pubs, restaurants and hotels will be able to reopen their doors along with hairdressers, churches and museums. Families and friends will finally be reunited and the two-metre rule eased where it is impossible to impose. The Prime Minister said he wanted people to get out and “enjoy themselves”, adding he was looking forward to having a haircut and eating at a restaurant.
Church and business leaders said easing lockdown restrictions would bring “joy” back to the country and help revitalise the economy.
Boris Johnson warned he will not hesitate to apply the brakes if there was a coronavirus spike but insisted the British public’s common sense would keep it at bay.
The reforms, he said, would restore a sense of normality after what he called the toughest restrictions in peacetime history.
He said: “Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and to our shops, the bustle is starting to come back and a new, but cautious, optimism is palpable.
“But I must say it will be all too easy for that frost to return and that is why we will continue to trust in the common sense and the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance to carry us through and to see us to victory over this virus.”
From July 4 two households of any size can meet inside or out. It does not always have to be the same group of relatives or friends.
Different sets of grandparents can now meet up with their families for the first time.
Overnight visits are allowed but not hugging and there should be social distancing.
Where it cannot be applied, the two-metre rule is replaced by “one-metre-plus” with extra hygiene measures and face coverings to increase safety.
Pubs and restaurants are limited to table service and will be asked to collect customers’ details so they can be traced should there be another outbreak.
Hotels, B&Bs and campsites which are “Covid-secure” will be able to host guests again.
England’s cinemas, museums and galleries can also reopen. Weddings with up to 30 people are allowed but only one other household can join the bride and groom for the party afterwards.
Boris Johnson encouraged people to “do their patriotic best for Britain” and head to reopened pubs but warned them not to overdo it.
He said: “We can’t have great writhing scenes in the beer gardens when the virus could be passed on. This has to be done in a sensible way.
“People should be giving their names to the pubs, to the restaurants, doing things in a way that allows us if something does happen to track back, to test and trace and stamp out any outbreak.”
Despite being on a diet, Boris Johnson said he was looking forward to eating out again and a “very long list” of things to do.
He said: “I’d love to go to the theatre again – I’d like to go and see The Globe. I’d like to go to a restaurant, frankly. I would love to get my hair cut.”
Many businesses where people are unavoidably in close contact must remain shut, including nightclubs, soft-play centres, indoor gyms and beauty salons.
Live concert and theatre performances are also banned over fears singing and speaking loudly can spread the virus.
Parents can now ask friends and family for help with childcare, Boris Johnson said, as he joked he is “coping fine” with parenthood after the birth of his son Wilfred in April.
New infections are now declining by between two percent and four percent every day.
Across the UK nearly 69,000 tested positive for Covid-19 in the first half of May. That fell by nearly 70 percent to just under 22,000 in the first half of this month.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty predicted the country would be living with Covid-19 into 2021, but had “absolute confidence” science would beat it through drugs or vaccines.
Boris Johnson warned however that the virus had not gone away and said the Government “will not hesitate to apply the brakes and reintroduce restrictions”.
But he said: “Wherever these outbreaks take place, we will use local cluster-busting techniques to stamp them out.” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there were “no easy decisions” about when to make changes. He said: “I believe the Government is trying to do the right thing and in that we will support them.”
Hospitality, business and tourism chiefs and church leaders welcomed the move.
CBI chief Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The long and nervous wait for hoteliers, landlords and restaurateurs is now nearing an end.
“Easing social distancing rules will make a material difference to the viability of thousands of firms.”
Bishop of London Sarah Mullally said: “There will be real joy as we begin to come together again, if even at a physical distance. But I also know that many will be understandably cautious at this news.” Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain Wetherspoon said: “We are extremely pleased that pubs are reopening on July 4 after a long hiatus.”