English pubs will be able to serve warm beer again from July 4, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday, as part of the most significant relaxation of coronavirus restrictions since they were imposed three months ago.
But publicans must adhere to a strict set of social distancing rules, including the edict that customers must be served only at their tables, and that their contact details must be taken in advance.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Johnson said the country had been successful in slowing down the virus to a level where life could begin returning to the streets. Restaurants, hair salons, museums and cinemas would all be allowed to reopen.
“Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is beginning to return to our streets and our shops,” he said.
All hospitality businesses would be allowed to reopen, Johnson said, subject to guidance that would encourage limited contact between staff and customers. Hair salons could open with appropriate precautions, such as the use of visors, Johnson announced. In order to facilitate the reopening, England’s 2-meter social distancing limit would be cut to 1 meter if other mitigation measures – such as face masks, visors or protective screens – were in place.
Also from July 4, two households of any size would now be able to meet “in any setting inside or out,” while maintaining social distancing, Johnson said. Current rules only allow groups of up to six people to meet outside.
Johnson acknowledged that the other nations in the UK — Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — would take their own approach, but said that all were seeing a similar trend in their coronavirus cases. He also emphasized that new the measures would be not be enforced by legislation, but would be introduced as guidance. He called for “the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risk.”
Other amenities can reopen, as long as they are “Covid secure,” including hotels and other forms of accommodation, places of worship, libraries, community centers, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and indoor leisure centers and social clubs.
The UK has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Europe, with a total of more than 42,000. Johnson’s government has come under fire for a lag in its response to the virus, confusing messaging and for taking a relatively relaxed approach to the country’s outbreak.