Britain took another tentative step towards the resumption of normal life on Monday as pubs and restaurants were allowed to partially reopen, in a major easing of coronavirus restrictions.

English pubs and restaurants can now serve drinkers and diners outside, despite forecasts of wintry temperatures, bringing some cheer to the hard-hit hospitality industry after repeated closures.

“It’ll be great to see everybody again and see all the locals,” Louise Porter, landlady of The Crown Inn in Askrigg, northern England, told AFP.

Also able to reopen are barbers and hairdressers, where demand is high for long overdue trims more than three months after the latest stay-at-home order was imposed.

A surge of shoppers is expected at stores in the non-essential retail sector as outlets try to recoup heavy Covid losses.

Indoor gyms, swimming pools, libraries and zoos have also been given the go-ahead to open their doors, as have self-catering domestic holidays, where bookings have soared.

Mosques are meanwhile preparing for the start of Ramadan this week, a year after the Muslim holy month was observed without traditional community gatherings.

The resumption of Ramadan prayers, even with some social distancing measures, could give worshippers “a renewed optimism”, said the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the easing of restrictions “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom”.

“I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed.” (AFP)

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