England's pubs reopen in 'major step' to freedom

Brits rejoiced on Monday as pubs reopened for the first time in months, racing to grab a drink as the clock struck midnight.

Hairdressers, gyms and other shops are also set to reopen Monday.

"Well, after 14 months of not going anywhere except funerals, it's a great plus, yeah, very exciting."

For now, pubs and restaurants will be restricted to serving outdoors, as dine-in services won't resume until May 17 at the earliest.

Non-essential stores like home and fashion chains will reopen in Wales as well as England, although residents of Scotland will need to wait another two weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses have been shut since early January, when England entered a third national lockdown to curb a more highly contagious local variant of the coronavirus.

A speedy vaccination campaign has cut COVID-19 cases by some 90% since peaking in January, and COVID-19 deaths by 95%.

That progress will allow the staged easing of lockdown to proceed, in what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a "major step" towards freedom.

Persuading Brits to reopen their wallets as they return to some kind of normalcy is key to the country's recovery.

Official data released last month showed that 2020 was the British economy's worst year in more than three centuries, with UK retailers having lost an estimated 27 billion pounds, or 37 billion dollars, in sales during lockdowns.

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