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Social distancing disappeared as revellers filled the streets of cities across England on ‘Super Saturday’ - the day pubs opened for the first time after three months of coronavirus lockdown.
Almost half of pubs stayed shut but, for those that opened, business was booming as an estimated £210 million was spent in bars and restaurants across the country.
Lockdown restrictions were lifted and venues were allowed to open from 6am.
Experts had predicted that more than 15 million pints of beer would be sunk in just one day, and as the alcohol flowed and drinkers relaxed, so did their awareness of social distancing.
Pictures showed London’s Soho swarming with drinkers in scenes resembling street parties, and across the country police forces urged people to stick to social distancing to avoid a second spike in cases of COVID-19.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, was on duty in Southampton and said it was “crystal clear” drinkers had not kept to social distancing rules.
Mr Apter said he dealt with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, adding: “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance.
“It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope. I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted.”
Nottinghamshire Police arrested four people after reports of antisocial behaviour at "a small number of pubs north of the county". As a result, five venues chose to "close their own premises".
More than 200 people were moved on by police after an “illegal rave” on Teesside.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty had warned that the pandemic “is a long way from gone” and urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as pubs and restaurants reopened.
Soho in London is jammers, mask on and home time for me. Absolute madness pic.twitter.com/5lkkCK3zRa
— Stephen Brian Lowe (@StephenBLowe) July 4, 2020
Speaking on Friday, Whitty said: “None of us believe... this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.
“We do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”
And Boris Johson had warned on Friday night “we are not out of the woods yet”, saying added ministers “will not hesitate in putting on the brakes and re-imposing restrictions” in case of an outbreak.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Daily Mail people were entitled to enjoy themselves at pubs but added: “You could end up behind bars if you break the law.”
He also said he would not “shirk” from shutting pubs and restaurants again, and imposing local lockdowns if needed.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they had received more than 1,000 calls on Saturday, mainly linked to drink-related disorder and antisocial behaviour. Dorset Police said they had recorded 525 incidents in 24 hours.
West Midlands traffic police said they had arrested three drink-drivers, one of whom was violent towards officers.
However, some forces, including Cambridgeshire Police, thanked people for acting responsibly..
Thank you to everyone enjoying themselves responsibly so far this evening 🙏
We’re still on patrol across the county if you need us 👮♀️👮♂️👣
Please continue to stay safe and remember the distancing rules. #SaferCambs #PubsReopening #KnowYourLimits #DrinkAware pic.twitter.com/aV8kk9YGJn
— Cambs Police (@CambsCops) July 4, 2020
In Leicester, where pubs could not reopen due to a localised lockdown following a spike in cases of coronavirus, police in the city centre praised people for staying indoors and tweeted to say there was "not a soul to be seen" on Saturday night.
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