Good morning everyone! I’m Lucy Campbell, here to take you through all the latest coronavirus news throughout the day, as lockdown restrictions in England are significantly eased today.
From 6am this morning people in England have been able to tie the knot, head to their local pub for a long-awaited pint or get their lockdown mops trimmed at the hairdressers under modified physical distancing conditions, three months after the lockdown closed the doors of pubs, restaurants and hair salons. The major easing of lockdown measures will also see the reopening of theme parks, galleries, hotels, barbers, cinemas and bingo halls.
Men wait for a barber shop to open in Ashford, Kent, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased across England. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA
The prime minister urged the public to head out today to support these businesses, whose workers and their livelihoods depend on the economy getting moving again. Boris Johnson warned people not to get carried away, however.
At a press conference on Friday, the PM asked the public not to “blow” the progress England has made and deployed the government’s new slogan of “enjoy summer safely”. He said:
We’re making progress, we aimed for July the 4th, we wanted to set ourselves a target, we think we’re in good shape but my message is: let’s not blow it.
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said the pandemic “is a long way from gone” as he urged the public to follow social distancing rules as guidance is eased.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of the “superspreading” of Covid-19 occurring in pubs.
Whitty told the conference:
None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.
There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.
Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.
Though physical distancing advice isn’t written into law, the government is strongly urging people to stick to the 1-metre plus rule, wear face masks, sit side by side rather than opposite, and wash hands regularly. There doesn’t seem to be any legal requirement to provide names and contact details to venue owners when you visit (for contact tracing purposes), though some establishments are actively encouraging this.
A member of staff in PPE waits to serve drinkers at the reopening The Toll Gate, a Wetherspoons pub in Hornsey, north London, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased across England. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA
Also as of today, people in England can meet in groups of no more than six people outside, and two households inside, and overnight stays are now permitted, providing physical distancing is maintained. Weddings of up to 30 guests can now go ahead.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the day unfolds. With cold weather and drizzle predicted, how far will people hold back or venture out to some degree of a return to “normal life”?
Please feel free to get in touch with me throughout the day as I work to share tips, and do send in pictures and your own experiences if you venture out to do any of the above – and do be safe!