Several English pubs have closed their doors again after customers tested positive for coronavirus, dealing an early blow to the country’s efforts to reopen its establishments.
Pubs and restaurants were allowed to welcome customers from July 4, a day dubbed “Super Saturday” by the British media amid concerns about social distancing and unruly behavior.
Now, at least three venues have had to shut again, after some customers tested positive for Covid-19 following their visit at the weekend.
A post on the Facebook page of the Fox and Hounds pub in Batley, north England, said a customer – who had been at the premises on Saturday – called on Monday to say they had tested positive for coronavirus.
“On their visit they was unaware (sic) and had no symptoms,” the post added.
“This isn’t the message we wanted to write so soon but The Lighthouse will be closed due to a customer testing positive,” a pub in Burnham-on-Sea, in southwest England, added on social media.
Both pubs said their staff members were being tested.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the venues for taking steps to close. “They are doing the right thing by their customers and by their communities… three pubs shut so others can be open,” he told lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday.
Pubs were allowed to open in England on Saturday for the first time in almost four months months. Customers at many were asked for contact details before they could enter, in order to help with contact tracing if someone was later found to have the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged drinkers to behave responsibly, but footage over the weekend showed large crowds outside city pubs with no social distancing and few revelers wearing masks.
A third venue, the Village Home Pub in southern England, said it hopes to open again on Saturday after a customer tested positive.
“Anyone who was in the pub over the weekend there is no need to isolate unless you show symptoms or are contacted direct by the trace group,” it told customers on social media. England’s track and trace operation is not yet running at full capacity.
Pubs were required to implement social distancing and limit the number of attendees in order to reopen, but many Brits flocked to their locals regardless.
“A predictably busy night and confirmed what we knew, alcohol and social distancing is not a good combination,” John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation, tweeted Sunday.
Apter, who was on duty in the southern England city of Southampton on Saturday night, said he and colleagues had dealt with “happy drunks, angry drunks, fights” and antisocial behavior. “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance,” he said.
Five pubs in Nottinghamshire, in England’s East Midlands region, decided to close early following anti-social behavior, police said at the weekend, and officers made four arrests following reports of a smashed window and minor assault.
However, Inspector Craig Berry thanked “the majority of the public who have acted responsibly throughout Saturday.”
Many venues chose instead to stay closed, explaining that they cannot ensure it would be safe to welcome drinkers again. Pubs in Scotland and Wales must wait until later this month to reopen.
CNN’s Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting