Britons hit the high street as measures ease


People hold up beverages as they party on a street in Soho, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease, in London, Britain on April 12, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

But experts warn there may be rebound in cases of infection after the relaxation

Pubs, restaurants, and retail businesses in England and Wales were quick to welcome back customers for the first time in months on Monday as the government eased lockdown measures in place due to the novel coronavirus.

Hospitality and non-essential shops have been shut since Jan 6, when England entered a third lockdown, but a largely successful vaccination campaign has reduced fatalities by more than 95 percent and cases by at least 90 percent from the peak at the turn of the year.

More than 32 million people in the United Kingdom have now had their first dose of a vaccine, and on Sunday, the nation reported its lowest daily total of COVID-19-related deaths since Sept 14.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the easing of restrictions as "a major step forward in our road map to freedom".

In a statement on Sunday night, he said: "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." Johnson urged people to "behave responsibly" and to take steps to "suppress COVID-19".

Gyms, zoos, and hairdressers in England and Wales can now also return to business with health and hygiene measures in place. Pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve in their outdoor spaces. Indoor hospitality service could resume if restrictions are eased further, as planned, on May 17.

Some rules are also being relaxed in Scotland, though it will wait until April 26 to reopen businesses. Northern Ireland's stay-at-home order is ending.

Just after midnight, early on Monday morning, customers in England braved cold temperatures to visit pubs, and some hairdressers opened early to serve people eager for a much-needed haircut.

Later, long lines of customers were seen outside fashion retail stores in shopping centers and along high streets around the country, Reuters news agency reported.

Visits to UK shops more than tripled in early trading on Monday, as footfall jumped more than 200 percent on last week, according to figures from data provider Springboard.

The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, or BRC, told Sky News it was a "big day" for nonessential businesses, which are relying on customers for a boost after months of closures.

Helen Dickinson told the broadcaster that "around 30 billion ($41 billion) of in-store sales have been lost during the pandemic" so far and that shops are "desperate to welcome their customers back". The BRC estimated that 67,000 retail jobs were lost last year.

Nicholas Hair, owner of the Kentish Belle pub in southeast London, told the BBC there was a "sense of celebration" in the early hours as it opened to midnight pubgoers outdoors.

"I'm hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable," he said.

However, in an interview with Times Radio, Peter Horby, an Oxford University professor and chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, or NERVTAG, warned the public to remain cautious.

"The watchword has got to be caution, really. It's not clear exactly when or how big it will be, but there is, I think, inevitably going to be a bit of a rebound in the number of cases when things are relaxed."

The months of lockdowns have forced hundreds of smaller UK businesses to close down permanently, agencies have reported, and last month, the British Beer and Pub Association estimated that about 2,000 pubs would close during the pandemic, causing many employees to lose their jobs.

People in the UK are expected to go on a spending spree having amassed an extra 180 billion pounds in their bank accounts, according to an estimate by the Office for Budget Responsibility, known as the OBR, issued last month. It said the savings are equivalent to almost 10 percent of the UK's annual gross domestic product.

The independent public finance body said if the 180 billion pounds were to be spent during the next four quarters, it would add about 6 percent to consumption both this year and the next.

"There may be a degree of euphoria once the pandemic is past, leading households to wish to treat themselves," said the OBR.

Some economists suggest the easing of the lockdown measures will spark a surge in consumer spending, "at least by wealthier households", a report in the Financial Times said. But not all agree.

"There is disagreement in the economist community over whether or not savings will get spent," said Karen Ward, chief market strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management, quoted in the FT. "I just think it will get spent."

2021年4月12日,在英国伦敦,随着冠状病毒疾病(新冠肺炎)限制的放松,人们在索霍区的街道上聚会时举起饮料。[图片/机构]

但是专家警告说,放松管制后,感染病例可能会反弹

周一,英格兰和威尔士的酒吧、餐馆和零售企业数月来首次迅速欢迎顾客回来,因为政府放松了因新型冠状病毒而实施的封锁措施。

自1月6日英格兰进入第三次封锁以来,酒店和非必要的商店已经关闭,但是一场非常成功的疫苗接种运动已经使死亡人数比年初的峰值减少了95%以上,病例减少了至少90%。

英国目前已有超过3200万人接种了第一剂疫苗。周日,英国报告了自9月14日以来与新冠肺炎相关的最低每日死亡总数。

英国首相鲍里斯·约翰逊(Boris Johnson)称赞这些限制的放松是“我们通往自由的道路上向前迈出的重要一步”。

在周日晚上的一份声明中,他说:“我相信,对于那些关门这么久的企业主来说,这将是一个巨大的解脱,对于其他人来说,这是一个重新开始做一些我们热爱但错过的事情的机会。”约翰逊敦促人们“表现得负责任”,并采取措施“压制新冠肺炎”。

英格兰和威尔士的健身房、动物园和理发店现在也可以在健康和卫生措施到位的情况下恢复营业。酒吧和餐馆被允许在其室外空间提供服务。如果按照计划在5月17日进一步放宽限制,室内酒店服务可能会恢复。

苏格兰的一些规定也在放宽,尽管它将等到4月26日重新开业。北爱尔兰的居家命令即将结束。

周一凌晨刚过午夜,英国的顾客冒着寒冷的温度去酒吧,一些理发师早早开门为渴望理发的人服务。

据路透社报道,后来,人们在购物中心的时尚零售店外和全国的大街上看到了长长的顾客队伍。

数据提供商跳板的数据显示,周一早盘,英国商店的访问量增加了两倍多,客流量较上周增长了200%以上。

英国零售联盟(BRC)的首席执行官告诉天空新闻,对于非必要的企业来说,这是“重要的一天”,因为在几个月的关闭之后,这些企业依赖客户来推动业务。

海伦·迪金森(Helen Dickinson)告诉该广播公司,“迄今为止,约300亿英镑(410亿美元)的店内销售额在这场流行病中损失殆尽”,商店“急于欢迎顾客回来”。英国零售商协会估计,去年有6.7万个零售岗位流失。

伦敦东南部肯特郡贝尔酒吧的老板尼古拉斯·海尔(Nicholas Hair)告诉BBC,当酒吧向午夜的户外游客开放时,清晨会有一种“庆祝感”。

“我希望这是一种重生,我们在可预见的未来重新开放,”他说。

然而,牛津大学教授、新兴呼吸道病毒威胁咨询小组(NERVTAG)主席彼得·霍比(Peter Horby)在接受《时代》电台采访时警告公众保持谨慎。

“口号必须是谨慎,真的。目前还不清楚具体时间或规模,但我认为,当形势放松时,案件数量不可避免地会有所反弹。”

各机构报告称,数月的封锁已迫使数百家较小的英国企业永久关闭,上个月,英国啤酒和酒吧协会(British Beer and Pub Association)估计,在疫情期间,约有2000家酒吧将关闭,导致许多员工失业。

根据预算责任办公室(OBR)上个月发布的一项估计,英国人预计将继续疯狂消费,他们的银行账户上已经积累了1800亿英镑。该机构表示,这些储蓄相当于英国年度国内生产总值的近10%。

独立的公共财政机构表示,如果这1800亿英镑在未来四个季度支出,这将增加今年和明年约6%的消费。

“一旦大流行过去,可能会有一定程度的兴奋,导致家庭希望自我治疗,”OBR说。

英国《金融时报》的一份报告称,一些经济学家认为,放松封锁措施将引发消费支出激增,“至少是富裕家庭的消费支出”。但并不是所有人都同意。

《金融时报》援引摩根大通资产管理公司(J.P. Morgan Asset Management)首席市场策略师卡伦·沃德(Karen Ward)的话说:“在储蓄是否会被花掉的问题上,经济界存在分歧。”“我只是觉得会花。”


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