Boris Johnson has urged the nation to ‘exercise restraint’ after drinkers packed into bars, restaurants and town centres last night to toast the latest easing of Covid restrictions.
The Prime Minister this morning warned that throwing caution to the wind risked derailing the pandemic roadmap and stressed that lockdown – not vaccinations – were driving down infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
‘At the moment I cannot see any reason for us to change the roadmap or deviate from the targets we’ve set ourselves,’ he said. ‘But it is very very important that if we are to get there in the way we want, that people continue to be cautious, and exercise restraint.’
He sounded the gentle note of caution as millions of people in England woke up to their first pub hangover of the year after beer gardens were given the green light to reopen after four months shut.
All stages of the government’s roadmap – May 17 and June 21 are next – fall on a Monday, meaning plenty were nursing sore heads at their desks today.
One drinker declared: ‘Happy to announce that I have a hangover after a night in a pub’ while another celebrated a ‘cracking day’. Meanwhile one reveller spoke for many when she said: ‘The hangover from April 12 is really like no other’.
Dubbed the Glorious Twelfth, yesterday also heralded the return of hairdressers, gyms and non-essential shops.
Sporting his own trimmed-back trademark blonde locks in Downing Street, the PM warned: ‘Clearly yesterday people have been able to go to the pub, to go shopping, get a haircut and so on, and that’s great.
‘The numbers are down, of infections and hospitalisations and deaths. But it is very important for everyone to understand that the reduction in these numbers has not been achieved by the vaccination programme – it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic.
‘And so, yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.
‘So, as we unlock the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, and sadly more hospitalisations and deaths and people have just got to understand that.’
As the PM appealed for people to tread tentatively:
The government announced all over-50s in the UK have now been offered a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine;
Ministers hit their mid-April target three days early and under-40s will now be called to get the jab;
US regulators suspended use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine over blood clot fears;
Nicola Sturgeon accelerated her Scottish lockdown roadmap so pubs can open indoors three weeks before England;
Department of Health bosses posted another 3,568 positive tests across the UK – the highest daily toll since April 1. Deaths have halved since last Monday, with 13 more victims recorded today;
More than 70 people in London are being forced to self-isolate after contracting the South African variant of coronavirus that could weaken the vaccine;
Everyone in Wandsworth and Lambeth now urged to take a PCR test.
Two women are seen on the ground in a street as people crowd the Soho area last night as pint glasses littered the road
Arrests as outdoor drinking and dining resumes in London for the Glorious 12th as lockdown restricts were eased last night
The police try to clear the streets of Soho at 11pm as pubs, restaurants and bars close after the first day open after lockdown
One man was seen appearing to be detained by three masked police officers, who held his arms behind his back as he was against a railing
An ambulance was called to take away one lady who was found slumped on a pavement in Birmingham late last night
One drinker got carried away – by her friend – in Birmingham as young and old joined together to enjoy restrictions easing
Drinking in the street in the Soho area of London last night as coronavirus restrictions eased and the celebrations started
A group of friends drink tequila at a table outside a bar in the Northern Quarter of central Manchester last night
The Prime Minister stayed away from the pub last night after cancelling a trip in the wake of Prince Philip’s death.
But many headed out into the night and there were rowdy scenes in areas of London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester.
Officers struggled to enforce social distancing in Soho, where thick crowds were drinking in the streets and making little effort to stay apart.
The vibrant London hub, renowned for its bustling nightlife, became the epicentre of the capital’s post-lockdown partying last summer.
Last night punters made use of the pavement al fresco dining areas erected to create space – but many decided to bring their own drinks and mingle in the street to soak up the atmosphere.
One man looked to have been detained by three masked officers who held his arms behind his back as he was pushed against a railing last night. The man was later seen being led away.
Scotland Yard has not yet revealed how many were arrested in last night’s antics in Soho, but an official reckoned there were not many.
Westminster City Council said it was aware of ‘isolated incidents of crowding’ and that it was working with businesses to ensure they are operating ‘responsibly and safely in line with guidance’.
Several West End streets were closed to traffic between 5pm-11pm to create outdoor seating areas as part of measures implemented by Westminster City Council to support hospitality businesses.
Attila Kulcsar, a media communications manager, said the crowds felt ‘like a return to the ‘real’ Soho of the 1990s’.
‘Tonight’s atmosphere beats the whole of last summer… it really is like how I imagine VE Day,’ the 54-year-old said.
‘It’s almost like watching Hogarth paintings come to life in 2021. There is a wonderfully raucous hysteria everywhere. It’s very celebratory.
‘There is very little social distancing. A distinct sense that people feel the Covid restrictions have ended. There are lots of police around Soho as well as Covid Marshalls, but there is no word from them about social distancing… if anything they seem to be joining in the festivities.’
Soho appeared to be back to normal last night despite it being less than one day out of the coronavirus lockdown measures
Soho welcomed back drinkers in their hundreds who did their best to social distance despite the huge numbers out and about
Revellers partied the night away in Birmingham’s Arcadian complex in the city’s China Town on the first night of lifted rules
Forgotten how it’s done? One reveller was pictured appearing to inhale his two drinks through his nose as he returned to bars
Revellers last night enjoyed a taste of lockdown freedom with their first pub drink in four months, as England lifted rules
What restrictions have now been eased from the strict lockdown?
All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and swimming pools, with no group classes allowed.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service, but will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.
Mass testing to be available, with everyone urged to take two tests per week.
New care home rules will allow residents to have two visitors, rather than just one.
Self-catering accommodation, including campsites, can reopen, but hotels and B&Bs must remain closed until at least May 17.
Shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding.
The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
Public buildings can reopen, as can outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
Controversial hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol will be dropped.
Clothes shops will be allowed to reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.
Still banned –
Until May 17 at the earliest: Gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors, with the rule of six and two-household rule indoors; pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors; and controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted.
Outdoor events will be allowed to have a capacity of 50 per cent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower; while special provisions will be made for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be spaced out, with up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.
Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events, including wakes. Indoor gatherings like exercise classes will be given the go ahead.
Until June 21 at the earliest: All legal limits on social contact will be lifted and nightclubs reopened.
Away from raucous scenes in central London, many landlords were happy to be back in business.
Gary Murphy, who runs the Old Mitre in Barnet, said his grand reopening yesterday went ‘extremely well’.
He told MailOnline: ‘There’s a real appetite to get back to normal and I’ve had 80-year-olds who have been first in the queue. It’s not just the young!’
Lockdown rules limit pub service to outdoors only, forcing hardy boozers to brave the the early spring chill last night.
The UK’s typically topsy-turvy weather has seen bright blue skies return within hours of bone-chilling -1C temperatures and snow in the morning.
But the sun is forecast to shine in parts on Friday which will likely see pubs and restaurants packed with people looking to cut loose before the weekend.
Pubs will not be able to open indoors until May 17, when six people will be allowed to meet for a drink.
Many smaller pubs lacking outdoor space have been stung by the restrictions and were unable to open yesterday.
Contrary to the PM’s strategy of taking baby steps back to normality, hard-up hospitality bosses urged him to accelerate the roadmap.
The boss of bar group Revolution today called on the Government to ‘follow the data’ and consider easing restrictions sooner than scheduled as the company sank to a loss for the past half-year.
Revolution Bars Group told investors on Tuesday that it slid to a £17.7million pre-tax loss for the 26 weeks to December 26 after sales were battered by the pandemic.
The company’s chief executive Rob Pitcher said there was reason for positivity after around third of its venues reopened on Monday.
He said: ‘The Prime Minister said he will follow the data not the date, so we are asking him to do exactly that.
‘Given the vaccine rollout has taken place ahead of forecasts, I think there is case for looking closely at the current reopening schedule.’
Mr Pitcher said the company is looking at new opportunities to help spark a recovery after restrictions lift and is planning to trial two new operating models.
He said the group wants to reopen one of its current sites with a ‘competitive socialising’ model which will involve a seaside-based theme and classic arcade games.
Another site, which will open later in the year, will ‘promote young entrepreneurs’ as part of a mixed-use hospitality and retail site.
Last night’s a group of girls were seen cheering, singing and celebrating as they enjoyed their first night out in four months.
Crowds were seen gathered in Newcastle however, where pictures captured a raucous party-goer lying in the road with drink-in-hand as revellers watched on in surprise.
Britons partied in the streets of Soho on Monday night as measures were lifted on pubs and bars in England for the first time since January
The roadmap out of lockdown in the four home nations: Where are they now, and what’s coming next?
Latest lockdown easing – From March 29 up to six people from different households can meet outdoors and you can enjoy most outdoor sports.
What’s coming next? – Beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor dining can reopen. Non-essential retail venues can also reopen from April 12. May 17 will see easing of international travel restrictions as well as the return of indoor mixing. On June 21, all legal limits on social distancing will be axed.
Infections/deaths: 3,812,188 total cases with 127,616 deaths.
Latest lockdown easing – From today (April 5) barbers and hairdressers allowed to reopen alongside garden centres and homeware stores.
What’s coming next? – From April 26, beer gardens and gyms will be allowed to reopen. From May 17, cinemas will open their doors again and four people from two households can meet indoors.
Infection/deaths – 219,986 total cases with 7,614 deaths.
Latest lockdown easing – From March 27 ‘Stay local’ rules scrapped and travel allowed within its borders. Six people from different households can meet indoors
What’s coming next? – Travel between Wales and the rest of the UK will be allowed from April 12 and all non-essential shops will be allowed to open. From April 26, outdoor hospitality will be given the green light. Indoor mixing will be allowed from May 10.
Infections/deaths: 209,627 total cases with 5,511 deaths.
Latest lockdown easing – From March 8 children in pre-school, nursery and primary one to primary three allowed back to the classroom.
What’s coming next? – Northern Ireland does not have a roadmap in the same way as other regions, but non-essential shops and travel is expected to come back soon.
Infections/deaths: 117,503 total cases with 2,116 deaths
In Manchester and Leeds pub-goers were dressed in their glad rags as they enjoyed their first night on the town since the lockdown measures were imposed in January.
Police officers had earlier been seen patrolling popular Old Compton Street and neighbouring areas, after revellers had flocked there to enjoy al-fresco dining and drinks.
Number 10’s scientific advisers have always warned easing restrictions would cause coronavirus infections to rise by allowing people to mix together but because millions of people have been vaccinated, the NHS shouldn’t be overwhelmed.
But experts tracking England’s outbreak say none of the planned steps taken so far – reopening schools on March 8 and dropping strict stay at home guidance on March 29 – have caused any noticeable problems.
Experts say it is ‘entirely possible’ the U-turn in the figures could be down to the Easter bank holiday. It takes up to seven days for people to show symptoms of Covid and get their test results back.
Revellers last weekend flocked to parks to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the first weekend of England’s eased restrictions to make the most of the rule of six to see family and friends.
Dr Simon Clarke, an infectious disease expert at the University of Reading, said the daily figure were an important reminder that the numbers are not ‘guaranteed to go down’ and that timing-wise the spike coincided with Easter.
The rise may also be explained by recording delays, with testing numbers known to dip on public holidays due to the way swabs are recorded and because fewer people come forward for them.
Ministers today trumpeted hitting their target to vaccinate all over-50s by April 15 two days early.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We have hit a hugely significant milestone by offering jabs to everyone in the nine highest risk groups, giving them the protection vaccines provide against COVID-19. I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccine rollout, which has already saved many thousands of lives.’
Matt Hancock added: ‘I’m delighted to confirm we have met the target to offer a first vaccination to the 9 highest risk groups ahead of the 15 April deadline.
‘Vaccines are safe, effective and have already saved over 10,000 lives – when it’s your turn, come forward & get the jab.’
Mr Johnson urged the eligible people to come forward and get their jab when offered, adding that he remains ‘very confident’ about vaccine supplies despite previous concerns over constraints.
When The NHS’s online booking system opened up to include people over the age of 45 on Tuesday, the website crashed for many.
There are an estimated 3.7 million people in England aged 45 to 49. The NHS in England said 19 out of 20 of those most at risk of the virus have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
An estimated 27 million people in England are in the top nine priority groups, so it is likely around 25.7 million have received their first Covid-19 jab. But this suggests around 1.3 million have not had the jab.
One vaccination expert said that it was ‘vitally important’ to vaccinate ‘the last few per cent’, or they could get infected and end up in hospital.
Professor Jeremy Brown, from University College London Hospitals and a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told the Today programme: ‘The problem here is that 5-10% have not been vaccinated.
‘When the virus re-circulates through the community they could get infected and end up in hospital. So it’s vitally important that we get that last few per cent.’
Pubs up and down the country threw open their beer gardens and outdoor drinking areas for the first time since early January, while shops, gyms and hairdressers were finally allowed to reopen. Pictured: Police attempted to maintain order in Soho last night
But as day turned to night, and the drinks flowed, rowdy revellers faced a crackdown from police. Officers were seen attempting to enforce social distancingi n London’s famous nightlife district of Soho. Pictured: Revellers enjoyed a night out in Manchester after restrictions were lifted
Crowds were seen gathered in Newcastle, where pictures show a raucous party-goer lying in the road with drink-in-hand as revellers watched on in surprise
In Leeds a group of girls were seen cheering and celebrating as they enjoyed their first night out in four months
It was hugs and celebrations for revellers in Soho on Monday night, as hundreds took to the street in celebration of the easing of lockdown measures
Groups gathered in the streets to enjoy a drink in scenes one person described as being ‘like VE Day’
It was all cheers in a crowded Soho as dozens of Britons headed to the bars, pubs and restaurants to enjoy a first pub pint in months
Groups came close together as crowds gathered in the streets of Soho on Monday night, with police keeping a watchful eye over revellers
Police were seen to intervene in London’s Soho district, where revellers gathered for the first time in more than four months
But the police presence did not appear to dampen the mood in Soho, where groups of six headed out to enjoy their first taste of post-lockdown freedom
Drinkers returned in Newcastle city centre on the day lockdown restrictions ease further across England on Monday
Seating areas were set up in the streets of Soho on Monday night to allow drinkers to return to pubs and bars in the nightlife district
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