Hospitals and police across England are preparing for New Year Eve-type revelry on Saturday when pubs, restaurants and other spaces are set to reopen amidst falling new coronavirus cases and some anxiety about a second peak in the near future.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday urged Britons to ‘act responsibly’ when pubs reopen from 6 am on Saturday. In various areas, there will be more police deployed than evident during New Year Eve celebrations.
London mayor Sadiq Khan advised that the reopening should not be seen as a ‘Super Saturday’.
The reopening applies to England, excluding Leicester, which is under an extended lockdown due to a recent spike; other constituents of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are not part of the reopening.
England will also allow from July 10 quarantine-free air travel to visitors from over 50 countries, including France, Italy, Germany and Spain. The list of countries was due to be released on Friday, as experts continued to advice caution to prevent a second spike.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said countries on the list would be labelled as red, amber or green. Amber countries would have reciprocal arrangements, meaning travellers from the UK will not have to quarantine on arrival there. The red list includes the US.
The Department of Health said: “As more shops and workplaces begin to reopen, hand-washing is more important than ever”. Restaurants, pubs and other places have been advised to collect contact details of customers so that they could be traced for new cases if needed.
Johnson said in an LBC radio interview on Friday: “We thought about this carefully and I think we wanted to give pubs time to prepare, we wanted a date early in July and when I look at what is happening I hope very much that people will behave responsibly and enjoy summer safely”.
“I hope this will be a reasonable time for people to get ready to enjoy themselves in the weekend but to do it in a safe way.”
When pressed on why Saturday was chosen rather than Monday and whether he only ‘hoped’ it would be safe, Johnson added: “It’s not on hope, it’s based on a clear understanding of the statistical risks that we now face as a country”.
“We’ve progressed thanks to the efforts of the British people from an incidence of the disease at about one in 400 a few weeks ago to maybe one in 2,200 today. You’re appreciably less likely now to be in close proximity to someone who has it than you were even a couple of weeks ago”.
“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.”
As of Thursday, there were 43,995 deaths and 283,757 cases in the UK, based on figures from hospitals and care homes, making the UK the worst affected in Europe. Schools are due to reopen in September.