Britain lifted a four month COVID-19 lockdown on Monday giving 65 million people a measure of freedom that was earlier curtailed by the Coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic which began in Wuhan, China in late 2020.
The British will now be able to, cautiously, drink a pint at pubs, sit down for an indoor meal at restaurants, and even visit the cinema. Britain’s series of lockdowns was the strictest restrictions in peacetime history and was accompanied by a drastic extension of state power: during the lockdowns, the police broke up protests, parties, closed religious services and handed out fines of up to $14,000 (10,000 pounds) to partygoers.
“I shall be hugging literally everyone I can get my hands on,” said British actress Joanna Lumley. “I shall snatch babies from their mothers, and lean over zimmer frames. I shall hug girls at the till, the picture framer, and lads playing footie in the park. Much later obviously I shall be hugging police personnel as I am charged at the station. Hugger-mugger, that’s me.”
While there is loads of euphoria, it is accompanied by some anxiety.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it clear that the spread of the coronavirus variant which was identified in India could result in a delayed opening of the UK economy.
“Together we have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution,” said Johnson in a statement.
There is a growing concern among British scientific advisers that the B.1.617.2 variant will become the dominant variant in the UK since it is more transmissible than B.1.1.7 (the variant that was first identified in Kent, England).
From Monday, gatherings of up to 30 people will be allowed outdoors, two families will be allowed to meet indoors; restaurants, cafes, and bars will reopen for indoor service; care home residents will be allowed to have five visitors; and face coverings will no longer be compulsory in schools.
“It’s been a long, long time this one,” said Clare Smyth, the chef of London restaurant Core who won her third Michelin star in January during lockdown.”I’m super excited, can’t wait to get the guests through the door, it’s going to be quite emotional,” she told Reuters. “London is opening up and exciting times will be ahead and it will bounce back.”
Although the rules are slightly different in the United Kingdom’s four constituent parts, restrictions are being eased across Scotland, Wales and England from Monday; they will be eased slightly later in Northern Ireland.
($1 = 0.7099 pounds)