LONDON: England takes its biggest steps yet towards resumption of normal life on Saturday (Jul 4) as people are finally allowed to drink in a pub, get a haircut or have a meal in a restaurant for the first time in over three months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everybody had to behave responsibly and maintain social distancing to support businesses and not risk a second wave of COVID-19.
Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at the stroke of midnight while pubs will be allowed to start serving from 6am local time on so-called "Super Saturday", sparking worries of pent-up over-indulgence.
Johnson said his message was to "enjoy summer safely" and not undo the progress made in knocking back the pandemic.
He said workers in pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses had made an heroic effort to prepare for reopening.
"The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly," he said. "We must not let them down."
Police said they were "absolutely prepared" for the pubs reopening.
But customers might find the atmosphere inside rather different from the usual Saturday-night scrum.
Numbers will be limited, no one will be allowed to stand at the bar and there will be no live music. Patrons will also have to give their details to allow tracers to identify them if anyone later tests positive.
JD Wetherspoon, one of the biggest chains, said it had invested £11 million (US$14 million) in safety measures. Most of its pubs in England will open at the usual time of 8am on Saturday. It is not taking bookings, but said at busy times numbers would be controlled by staff.