Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are now open, while in Wales pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoors from 13 July.
Pub-goers can enjoy freshly pulled pints again across most of the UK, but with coronavirus still present in the community, strict safety measures are in place.
In England the recommended ‘social distance’ to keep from others has dropped from two metres to what the government is calling ‘one metre plus’, after many in the sector lobbied for this change – more on this below.
Here, we explain more about what’s now open and the safety measures that are being implemented to try and minimise the spread of COVID-19.
- More coronavirus news and advice from Which?
Pubs and restaurants reopen
People can now go to pubs and restaurants in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, although they must sit outdoors in Scotland until July 15, when indoor areas will be allowed to open too. But whether you’re inside or outside, drinking and dining will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic.
Just as freshly reopened shops have introduced social distancing measures, all these businesses must take precautions to protect customers and staff, in some cases leading to very different experiences from the ones we’re used to.
Perhaps the biggest change is having to ‘check in’ before you sit down. Pubs and restaurants are asking customers to provide contact details when they arrive in an effort to help the NHS track and trace programme, with the BBC reporting that some pubs have already had to close back down after coronavirus cases were reported among customers.
Pubs and bars have been instructed to operate on a table-service basis without people ordering or drinking in the bar area.
- Find out more: which shops are open and will safety measures prevent the spread of coronavirus?
- Listen: our experts talk pubs and restaurants reopening on the Which? Money Podcast
Who can I go to pubs and restaurants with?
Pubs, cafés and restaurants have traditionally hosted large groups of friends and family as well as smaller gatherings.
But in England the rules now state that you can only meet with people from one other household, and social distancing must be maintained.
In Scotland, from 10 July people will be allowed to meet with up to two other households indoors.
When will hairdressers and beauty salons reopen?
Hairdressers can now open in England and Northern Ireland.
They look set to reopen from 15 July in Scotland and 13 July in Wales.
Safety measures, including masks for hairdressers, will have to be in place.
Beauty salons have not been given the go-ahead to reopen anywhere in the UK.
- Find out more: where and when do you need to wear a face mask?
What will remain closed?
Close-contact sports are still deemed unsafe, and gyms and swimming pools remain closed across the UK.
Nightclubs, theatres, soft play areas, indoor gyms, spas, bowling alleys and waterparks will also remain closed for the time being. However, Boris Johnson has said that task forces are working on reopening them safely as soon as possible.
Larger mass gatherings such as sporting events and concerts similarly remain cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, though places of worship will reopen with restrictions.
- Find out more: your rights on ticket refunds
Is one-metre social distancing safe?
At the start of the year, the term ‘social distancing’ would have meant very little to most people. Fast forward six months and it’s now become part of our everyday language, but its exact definition is becoming more – not less – complex.
Since 4 July, England has gone from having a straightforward rule – you must stay at least two metres away from people you don’t live with – to ‘one metre plus’.
While two-metre distancing is still recommended where possible, one metre will be acceptable if businesses put mitigating measures in place. These include wearing face coverings and not sitting face to face.
To stress the importance of these mitigating measures, the government has dubbed it ‘one metre plus’.
Ministers faced pressure from the hospitality sector to make this change. Business owners said a drop from two metres to one could be the difference between reopening and bankruptcy.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said that reopening with two-metre social distancing would only allow businesses to make 30% of their usual revenues, while one metre would mean they could make 60-75%.
Despite this, some people are concerned about whether cutting this distance in half is a safe thing to do.
Even before the reduction was announced, a Which? survey of 2,002 UK adults found that 38% did not feel confident about their health and safety when returning to the shops. So should we be worried?
Two-metre social distancing is fairly unusual, with most countries advising shorter distances and many – including China and France – opting for one metre.
As for the scientific view, the Environmental Modelling Group for Sage advised on 4 June that ‘best current evidence suggests that one metre carries between two and 10 times the risk of two-metre separation’.
However, Boris Johnson has said that scientific experts have told the government that ‘one metre plus’ – with mitigating measures ‘fully implemented’ – presents the same risk as two-metre social distancing.
As always when easing lockdown, the government has said it will keep a close eye on the impact its changes have, and that it will bring back restrictions if necessary.
‘Each step will be conditional and reversible,’ Mr Johnson said.
- Find out more: a scientist’s view on social distancing in shops