Boris Johnson has urged the nation to ‘exercise restraint’ after drinkers packed into bars, restaurants and town centres last night to toast the latest easing of Covid restrictions.
The Prime Minister this morning warned that throwing caution to the wind risked derailing the pandemic roadmap and stressed that lockdown – not vaccinations – were driving down infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
‘At the moment I cannot see any reason for us to change the roadmap or deviate from the targets we’ve set ourselves,’ he said. ‘But it is very very important that if we are to get there in the way we want, that people continue to be cautious, and exercise restraint.’
He sounded the note of caution as millions of people in England woke up to their first pub hangover of the year when beer gardens were given the green light to reopen after four months shut.
All stages of the government’s roadmap – May 17 and June 21 are next – fall on a Monday, meaning plenty were nursing sore heads at their desks today.
One drinker declared: ‘Happy to announce that I have a hangover after a night in a pub’ while another celebrated a ‘cracking day’. Meanwhile one reveller spoke for many when she said: ‘The hangover from April 12 is really like no other’.
Dubbed the Glorious Twelfth, yesterday also heralded the return of hairdressers, gyms and non-essential shops.
Sporting his own trimmed-back trademark blonde locks, the PM warned: ‘Clearly yesterday people have been able to go to the pub, to go shopping, get a haircut and so on, and that’s great.
‘The numbers are down, of infections and hospitalisations and deaths. But it is very important for everyone to understand that the reduction in these numbers has not been achieved by the vaccination programme – it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic.
‘And so, yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.
‘So, as we unlock the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, and sadly more hospitalisations and deaths and people have just got to understand that.’
The Prime Minister stayed away from the pub last night after cancelling a trip in the wake of Prince Philip’s death.
But many headed out into the night and there were rowdy scenes in areas of London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester.
Officers struggled to enforce social distancing in Soho, where thick crowds were drinking in the streets and making little effort to stay apart.
The vibrant London hub, renowned for its bustling nightlife, became the epicentre of the capital’s post-lockdown partying last summer.
Last night punters made use of the pavement al fresco dining areas erected to create space – but many decided to bring their own drinks and bunch together in the street to soak up the atmosphere.