Coronavirus: England has first night out since lockdown

  • People across England have had their first night out in three months, after coronavirus restrictions eased.

Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants as well as hairdressers, cinemas and theme parks reopened with strict social distancing rules.

But ministers urged caution and England’s chief medical officer said the latest step was not “risk-free”.

It comes as buildings and landmarks across the country were lit up to celebrate the NHS.

People were also encouraged to place lights in their window on Saturday to remember those who have died from the virus.

10 Downing Street lit up blueImage copyrightAFP
Image captionBuildings were lit up blue in honour of the tens of thousands of people who have died during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK

Downing Street was lit up blue while other public buildings including Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower, the Shard and the Wembley Arch were also illuminated.

Restrictions on the hospitality sector remain in place in Scotland and Wales, while pubs have been able to open in Northern Ireland since Friday.

  • In England, people are being allowed to stay the night away from home for the first time since lockdown started, with campsites and holiday accommodation also reopening.

Police in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall reported gridlock on the roads on Saturday – including a high volume of caravan owners heading to the coast.

Drinkers gather in SohoImage copyrightPA MEDIA

Despite the relaxation of restrictions, some 30% of bars, pubs and restaurants have stayed shut, according to the Night-Time Industries Association, amid fears for safety and concerns over how to implement social distancing guidance.

Campaign for Real Ale national chairman Nik Antona said: “The government have not really been helpful with their guidance, leaving it to the last minute in a lot of cases.” Some pubs “want to see what’s going to happen” before opening their doors, he said.

Media caption“It’s good to have a proper pint” : The BBC’s Fiona Trott talks to drinkers in a pub in Newcastle

At a pub in Newcastle, punters enjoyed their first “proper pint” in more than three months. “The atmosphere is a bit different… that was expected. But everyone’s having a good time,” one customer told the BBC’s Fiona Trott.

“The regulations are good and everyone is sticking with them, by the looks of things,” said his companion.

But it is a very different sort of Saturday evening from pre-lockdown expectations. Customers are expected to book a table in advance, to register their details on arrival and to stay no more than three hours.