Boris Johnson yesterday announced the relaxation of several coronavirus restrictions, with life in Britain finally back on the path to normality following more than three months of lockdown.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to ‘make life easier’ after an ‘incredibly tough time’ for people all over the country and revealed that bars, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers in England will be able to get back up and running from July 4.
He announced that the social distancing rule is being halved to ‘one metre plus’ to free up thousands of business, with precautions such as face masks deployed to make sure the risks of transmission stay ‘broadly’ the same.
Two households will also be able to gather indoors – meaning families will be able to reunite for the first time in months – though social distancing rules are still in place.
Other relaxations of rules include the resumption of church and other religious services – including wedding ceremonies for up to 30 people – though there is a ban on singing as it poses a ‘particular’ threat of spread.
However, nail bars, gyms and swimming pools will remain off limits and even the relaxed restrictions will come with strings attached, with social distancing measures still very much in place and encouraged by both Mr Johnson and his advisers.
Those advisers were at pains to stress Britons cannot simply go back to how we behaved before coronavirus.
So, what will the new normal look like for Britons from July 4?
Pubs and Bars
Millions of Britons will be overjoyed at the news that pubs and bars will be allowed to reopen from July 4 – though visiting your favourite boozer will be a drastically different experience to before lockdown.
For one, you’ll likely have to queue to get in and you’ll be banned from standing at the bar or anywhere else.
Only table service is allowed, with tables also ordered to be a metre apart.
This will obviously then lead to a lower capacity than usual, which could lead to some pubs running a booking system, meaning you’ll have to plan your bar trips, rather than the spontaneous visits of pre-lockdown.
Hairdressers and Barbers
Another long-awaited service, Britons will finally be able to get a haircut from July 4, with people all over the country having turned to relatives for dodgy snips during lockdown, with some even deciding to let it all grow for several months.
A trip to the movies is a popular pastime for Britons and, unsurprisingly, the return of the cinema is sure to be a popular decision.
However, sitting in a dark theatre, packed together with potentially hundreds of other cinema-goers to watch the latest blockbuster, could potentially be a hotbed for coronavirus spread.
To combat this, cinemas will be required to limit capacity and bookings.
This will ensure that movie lovers can remain socially distanced, whether in the theatre or queuing up outside.
Another issue is that several productions, including the latest installment of James Bond, have been delayed amid the pandemic.
To combat this, cinemas could offer a range of classic movies to whet the appetites of film lovers before the summer’s blockbusters are ready.
In a move more suited to some of the films it puts on, Showcase Cinemas said it had invested in an ‘anti-viral fogging machine that eliminates airborne viruses on contact’
Places of worship
The lockdown has had a significant impact on worshippers, with Easter and Ramadan and Eid among the religious events affected.
To the delight of many Britons, mass gatherings for prayers will be allowed from July 4, though distance will still have to be maintained.
And couples across the country will rejoice to know that weddings, as well as baptisms, will be allowed again, though guests will be limited to 30, which may cause altogether different issues.
Libraries and community centres
Libraries will be reopened, with Cilip, the UK’s library and information, providing guidance for staff and members of the public.
Despite fears that handling books could pass on the virus, the body found that the risk of picking up a book handled by someone infected with Covid-19 is negligible after 24 hours. If covered in plastic, the risk is negligible after 72 hours.
This means books could be ‘quarantined’ after being returned with a delay before they are back on the shelves.
Libraries are also expected to set up appointments and click-and-collect systems to manage football and discourage browsing.
Bingo halls and community centres will also be able to open on July 4, provided social distancing is maintained.
Museums and galleries
In a less positive note, museums and galleries have warned that they may never be able to reopen because of the financial impact of the pandemic.
The heads of the Tate, National Gallery, British Museum, Victoria And Albert Museum, Science Museum Group and Natural History Museum are yet to confirm opening dates, despite being given government permission to open their doors on July 4.
When they do eventually open, they are expected to have to use appointment and booking systems.
Directors of the Museums Association, Sharon Heal, said visitors should expect a different experience when they do return.
She said: ‘Where they can, museums are planning measures such as one-way systems and timed entry, and implementing strict health and safety measures in line with Government guidance. For those museums that do reopen next month, the experience for visitors will be different – cafes, interactives and play areas might not be open, but the welcome from front of house staff will be as warm as ever.’
Funfairs, theme parks and model villages
Funfairs and adventure parks will be allowed to reopen on July 4, promising summer thrills and fun that many feared wouldn’t be available this year.
Model villages will also be allowed to reopen, as will inside areas of zoos that were not previously reopened.
Alton Towers has announced it will open most outdoor rides and attractions on July 4, as have Chessington, Thorpe Park and Legoland.
Boris Johnson yesterday dramatically unwound the coronavirus lockdown to bring the country out of ‘hibernation’ with a return for pubs, haircuts and weddings and family and friends getting the green light to meet up indoors for the first time in months.
Britain gets its summer back: PM halves 2m rule, opens pubs and lets households mix inside from July 4 but warns he could ‘put the handbrake on at any time’ with 95% of UK still in danger of catching coronavirus.