Pubs opened at 6 a.m. and some hair salons reportedly welcomed customers at the stroke of midnight. Movie theaters and restaurants also reopened nationwide.
The media dubbed the day “Super Saturday” amid growing fears that the sweeping reopenings would lead to an overindulgence following months of lockdown. The Sun newspaper predicted that Britons would drink 15 million pints of beer on Saturday.
Nigel Farage tweeted a picture of himself holding a half-empty pint glass with the line, “Love it.”
“It’s beautiful just to get back and have a pint,” said Jim Martin, a 56-year old carpenter enjoying a drink at The Holland Tringham pub in south London. The pub opened at 8 a.m. and was three-quarters full by 11 a.m., according to Reuters.
Police chiefs were less than keen about the reopening, with worries that the way the government has publicized the event might fuel “chaos” due to drunkenness and irresponsible behavior.
“I am in favor of the gradual lifting of the lockdown, based on the science, but not in the way the government have proceeded,” David Jamieson, West Midlands’ police and crime commissioner, said in a statement. “The government is out of touch on this issue and should be listening to police leaders when they make major decisions like this. When things go wrong, it is the police who have to pick up the pieces.”
“I would urge people to act sensibly on Saturday.”
Hospital workers said they were preparing for New Year’s Eve-like behavior.
Medical professionals have pleaded for people to wear masks while in enclosed spaces, such as pubs and movie theaters, but not everyone is abiding by the rules.
That may be the reason that the other home nations – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – have taken different tracks. Each nation has the right to set its own timetable for reopening.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that this is about supporting businesses as much as returning to a sense of normalcy.
“We must not let them down,” he said at a news conference on Friday.
Not all parts of England are able to enjoy the newfound freedom: The reopening occurs even as the city of Leicester remains in strict lockdown following a spike in cases. Parliament rushed through legislation that banned social gatherings, overnight stays, and the reopening of hotels, pubs and restaurants – a necessary exclusion from the festivities.
People caught breaking the lockdown rules will be fined, according to the BBC. Fines begin at £100, and increase for multiple offenses. A person found breaking the lockdown for a sixth time faces a possible £3,200 penalty.