The easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown in England is the "biggest step yet on the road to recovery", Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a briefing, as thousands of businesses including pubs and restaurants are reopening on Saturday, 4 July.
Whatever the positive news, Boris Johnson argued that amid joy and striving for outings with friends and family, the public "must not let them down" by turning a deaf ear to social distancing rules. He went on stress that he would "not hesitate" to reimpose restrictions if the infection rates are again on the rise, as happened in Leicester, Weston-super-Mare, and Kirklees.
"The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly", the prime minister called.
Pubs have been told they must wait until 06:00 BST to reopen as a "precaution" to avoid midnight parties, with clients encouraged to book tables in advance. Live gigs and standing at the bar will continue to be banned, until the outbreaks are contained completely.
Alongside the easing of restrictions in the hospitality industry, social distancing rules will become more lax, from 2 metres to "one metre plus”, meaning citizens will be required to take additional precautions when coming into contact with people who are less than 2 metres away.
Johnson said "good progress" was being made towards reopening a slew of other businesses as well - such as gyms, night clubs, nail salons, etc., promising that a respective timetable will be announced next week.
Measures Vary Across UK
The 35,000 or so pubs and small bars operating in England have been closed since 20 March, and it is not immediately clear how many of them will reopen one of these days.
With regard to the reopening of eateries and pubs, measures differ in different areas of the country.
In Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on Friday. In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants will be allowed to start operating on 6 July, while indoor zones are expected to resume work no sooner than 15 July.
The Welsh government has promised to negotiate a "potential phased" reopening of pubs with the hospitality sector, but no dates have yet been given, amid reports of new flare-ups in certain parts of Britain.
Getting a Grip on New Flare-ups
As talks about a potential second wave of the pandemic continue, the prime minister laid out a five-step approach to tackling local outbreaks.
The latter will involve authorities continuing to thoroughly monitor data, engage with local agencies, and carry out across-the-board testing. In the fourth stage, which is centered around targeted restrictions, Johnson said activities will be capped "at particular locations" with "individual premises" forced to close.
The final stage would be a local lockdown, which he promised would be "carefully calibrated depending on the scientific circumstances of each outbreak". The change in rules occurred the other day in Leicester, due to a spike in COVID cases, with residents strongly advised not to travel and businesses and schools remaining closed.
The UK embarked on a new stage of its post-coronavirus reopening, involving eateries and other similar venues of mass gatherings, two weeks after zoos, drive-in cinemas, and theme parks were reopened across the country, along with non-essential shops and big retail chains, in line with the roadmap of the country's return to "normality" set out by Boris Johnson in late May.