Pubs, restaurants, hotels, museums and a range of other nonessential businesses in the U.K. are set to reopen on July 4 amid a major easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday.
Also among the venues that will be allowed to open are libraries, places of worship, hostels, movie theaters, cafes and office cafeterias, hair salons and barbers, outdoor gyms and playgrounds, bars, theme parks, outdoor leisure centers, social clubs and community centers, indoor attractions at aquariums and wildlife centers, and concert halls and galleries.
"Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is beginning to return to our streets and shops," Johnson told Parliament.
Social distancing is still being urged, but people can now meet more family and friends than before, with a recommendation of 1 meter (3.2 feet) of social distancing where it's not possible to be 2 meters apart. Weddings can take place with up to 30 attendees.
The government's advice for indoor gatherings is that one household can meet another household at a time, while maintaining social distancing. In food and hospitality venues, customers can be served only at their tables, and their contact details are to be taken in advance.
"Close proximity" venues like nightclubs, however, will remain closed.
"As we begin to reopen the economy, it's important that we do not increase the risk of transmission which is why 'close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed for now," a statement from the prime minister's office said. "The government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become Covid-secure and reopen as soon as possible."
"The number of new infections is now declining by between 2 and 4% every day," Johnson told Parliament, describing the reopenings as having been enabled thanks to a reduced rate of new infections. He added that he did not see substantial risk of a second wave of the virus.
"This pandemic has inflicted permanent scars and we mourn everyone we have lost. ... While we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS," he said, referring to the country's National Health Service.
The U.K. is one of the worst-hit countries in the world by the coronavirus, with more than 300,000 confirmed cases and at least 42,730 deaths — the fifth-highest and third-highest in the world, respectively.
The measures only apply to England, with Johnson acknowledging that the U.K.'s other nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will be taking their own approaches.