Pairs of hairdressers’ scissors, bed and breakfast and especially pub beer drawers resume service on Saturday in England, a new major step out of containment which raises fears of excess and new contamination with the new coronavirus.
With the reopening of pubs, hotels, hairdressing salons, cinemas and museums, the English will be able to regain the freedoms they have been deprived of for over three months.
Having entered containment late, the United Kingdom is even more behind than its European neighbors in getting out. Far from being defeated, the virus that has killed 44,000 people in the country – the heaviest death toll in Europe – has picked up strength in Leicester, leading the authorities to reconfigure an area of 600,000 inhabitants.
Some people believe that London’s recovery is too quick. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted their own separate decontainment schedules.
Serving at the table rather than at the bar, dedicated signage, maintaining physical distance, the conviviality of pubs will no longer be the same in this “new normal”.
Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Group, which brings together 47 pubs in the South of England and Wales, nevertheless expects a “historic” day for the sector: “It has been incredibly hard for us and our clients”.
The closure of pubs, unprecedented since the plague of 1665, led to an unprecedented drop in beer consumption.
Their reopening could attract 6.5 million visitors this weekend, according to the CEBR think tank. But by the end of the year, the British Beer and Pub Association fears the closure of 40% of pubs, or 18,000 establishments unable to recover.
– “Drunken Clowns” –
In a joint statement, representatives from pubs, hotels and the police called on customers to behave “responsibly” and to help professionals “reopen in the best possible way”.
“We must not let them down,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday evening, calling on the population to be restrained but warning that resurgences were to be expected locally.
The head of the English medical services, Chris Whitty, considered that the deconfinement constituted “a narrow way”. “There is no perfect time or perfect way to do it,” he admitted, adding that it was not “without risk” and that the virus would still be there for a long time.
Police expect as much activity as New Years Day, said Tim Clarke of the Metropolitan Police Federation, who represents the officers. According to him, it could be for the police “everything except a + super Saturday +”.
Hospitals, which barely blow after the peak of the pandemic, fear increased pressure. “Before Covid-19, on Fridays and Saturdays, emergencies sometimes looked like a circus filled with drunken clowns,” said Brian Booth, head of the West Yorkshire Police Association. “We don’t need it to start again.”
Will so many English people cross the threshold of their favorite pub? According to a YouGov poll for Sky News, 70% of those polled do not feel comfortable going to the pub or the cinema, 60% to the idea of going to a restaurant.
A sign of the delicate nature of this new stage, the British Treasury had to delete a tweet in which it called on the English to “have a drink and raise their glass”. He had attracted a flurry of criticism judging this unwelcome enthusiasm from a government criticized for its handling of the crisis that has left tens of thousands dead and unemployed.
On the roads, the Royal Automobile Club expects 10 million Britons to take advantage of these easings marking the resumption of domestic tourism, which would make the weekend busier since the start of the year.
For stays abroad, the vice also loosens. The government announced Friday that more than 70 countries and territories, including France but not the United States will be exempt from July 10 of the 14-day quarantine implemented to avoid a resurgence of the epidemic.