Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

REOPENING steps toasted in Britain.

Customers welcomed back by shops, hairdresse­rs, pubs, gyms

- JILL LAWLESS Informatio­n for this article was contribute­d by staff members of The Associated Press.

LONDON — People across Britain flocked to shed shaggy locks and browse for clothes, books and other “nonessenti­al” items as shops, gyms, hairdresse­rs, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopened Monday after months of lockdown.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “behave responsibl­y” as the country that has had Europe’s deadliest coronaviru­s outbreak took a big step toward a resumption of normal life.

Monday brought the easing of restrictio­ns that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in infections linked to a more transmissi­ble virus variant first identified in the southeast of the country.

Long lines formed outside some stores, including a branch of Nike Town on London’s busy Oxford Street, and pubs and restaurant­s with outdoor space reported a flood of bookings.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said businesses that have endured months of enforced closure were “excited and desperate” to welcome customers back.

At a hairdresse­r in Birmingham, customer Amy Smith said she was thrilled to be getting a trim at last.

“It’s great to be here. I’ve been going with this weird little topknot for a few months now,” she said. “I’m going to go to a beer garden experience later, so it’s going to be good.”

Many people were planning outdoor meals and drinks, despite unseasonab­ly cold weather that brought springtime snow flurries to many areas — including, briefly, to London.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Associatio­n, said Monday’s opening for outdoor service was “a first small step in a very long journey to recovery” for the “Great British pub.”

Across the country, hardy pubgoers ordered pints on patios and in beer gardens despite the chilly weather.

“Absolutely delicious,” said Pippa Ingram, as she tasted her first drink alongside a hot breakfast at the Royal Victoria Pavilion pub in the seaside town of Ramsgate in southeast England. “That is banging,” she said appreciati­vely.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following distinct but broadly similar plans to ease the lockdowns.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronaviru­s outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

Infections, hospitaliz­ations and deaths have all fallen thanks to the lockdown and a mass vaccinatio­n program that has given at least one dose to more than 60% of the adult population.

The situation in Britain stands in contrast to many of its neighbors, including France, where new lockdowns have been introduced to combat surging infections and deaths.

Johnson and epidemiolo­gists have urged caution, saying that many people remain unvaccinat­ed and that relaxing social distancing rules or allowing foreign holidays this summer could bring a new spike in infections.

Indoor drinking and dining won’t be allowed in England until May 17 at the earliest, and theaters, cinemas, nightclubs and most other venues remain closed, while indoor socializin­g is tightly restricted and foreign holidays remain banned.

The prime minister had promised to visit a pub for a pint to mark the occasion, but he postponed the celebrator­y drink after the death of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, on Friday at age 99.

Meanwhile, deliveries of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the European Union started on Monday, the first of 55 million doses that are expected to be provided to the bloc before the end of June.

European Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaeck­er said the Johnson & Johnson deliveries “are indeed on track as agreed.”

About 105 million vaccine doses were delivered in the first quarter, a bitter disappoint­ment since the drugmaker AstraZenec­a fell about 90 million doses short of an initial commitment of 120 million. The other doses were delivered by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with 65 million and 10 million doses, respective­ly.

In the second quarter, the EU is counting on 200 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, 35 million from Moderna, 70 million from AstraZenec­a and 55 million from Johnson & Johnson.

 ?? (AP/Alberto Pezzali) ?? People gather outside cafes and pubs Monday in central London as some of Britain’s coronaviru­s lockdown restrictio­ns were eased by the government.
(AP/Alberto Pezzali) People gather outside cafes and pubs Monday in central London as some of Britain’s coronaviru­s lockdown restrictio­ns were eased by the government.

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