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Back to the gym, pub, and shops as restrictions ease across the UK

There are variations in the way each part of the UK is easing restrictions today.

John Witts enjoys a drink at the reopening of the Figure of Eight pub in Birmingham
John Witts enjoys a drink at the reopening of the Figure of Eight pub in Birmingham
Image: Jacob King/PA

Updated Apr 12th 2021, 1:50 PM

PEOPLE QUEUED FOR an early-morning shopping fix as non-essential stores reopened in the latest relaxation of England’s coronavirus lockdown regulations.

Pub gardens and outdoor dining at restaurants were also set to resume as well as gyms, hairdressers, nail salons and zoos.

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. The “stay at home” order in Northern Ireland also ended, with more people permitted to meet outdoors.

Prime Minister 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 back.

Johnson had promised to toast the latest easing with a celebratory pint at a pub beer garden – a year to the day since he left hospital after contracting Covid-19.

However, he put his plans on hold since the country went into mourning after the death of Prince Philip last Friday.

Indoor gyms, swimming pools, libraries and zoos have also been given the go-ahead to open their doors, as have self-catering domestic holidays, where bookings have soared. The emphasis is still on outdoor activities to prevent spread of the virus through close contact indoors.

coronavirus-mon-apr-12-2021 Personal trainer Bella Gordijenko instructs Arthik Francis in the gym at David Lloyd Cambridge as the health and fitness group re-opens all 88 of its clubs in England Source: PA

embedded259145016 Children visit the penguins at London Zoo in Regent’s Park Source: PA

embedded259144019 Rebecca Richardson (top) and Genevieve Florence, members of the Aquabatix synchronised swimming team were able to practice again in north London Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Mosques are preparing for the start of Ramadan this week, a year after the Muslim holy month was observed without traditional community gatherings.

The resumption of Ramadan prayers, even with some social distancing measures, could give worshippers “a renewed optimism”, said the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed.

Britain has recorded more than 4.3 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began and over 127,000 deaths – one of the worst tolls in the world.

There is also increasing pressure for a decision on the resumption of non-essential international travel, with Britons eager to book foreign holidays. Johnson has said the government will be driven by data, not dates, in its reopening plan, with the next anticipated easing due on 17 May.

All social restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on 21 June.

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.”

embedded259143974 Friends Sue Bell (left) and Pippa Ingram with their drinks after being the first customers back into the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, Kent

embedded259143964 Source: PA

Snow showers and cold breezes made al fresco socialising a chilly prospect in parts of southern England, but 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.

As Pippa Ingram, 51, received the first drink to be poured, she said: “Absolutely delicious. It’s not gonna last long at all! That is banging.”

The Oak Inn in Coventry opened its doors shortly after midnight, with marquees, heaters and blankets for customers in the large beer garden – but council officials are investigating after videos posted on social media showed more than 100 people queuing in the street outside pub.

In Birmingham, a lengthy queue developed outside the city centre Primark store before it opened its doors.

Retail analysts Springboard said that up to 10am on Monday there had been a 339.7% increase in footfall in shopping centres across the UK, 232.8% in high streets and 58.2% at retail parks week on week.

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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.”

embedded259142883 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

coronarvirus-mon-apr-12-2021 : Secret Spa tan artist Magdelaine Gibson sprays client Isabella Robinson, 27, just after midnight at her home in Balham, south London. Source: PA

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.

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

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors said: “Of course, where we need to take action against those who dangerously flout the rules we will do.”

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

After three months of full national lockdown, the government said yesterday 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.

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

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