UK: Gym, Haircuts, and Pubs Still Off the Table After Expected Lockdown Relaxation

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Barbers, hairdressers, gyms, pubs, and restaurants are expected to remain restricted when Boris Johnson announces a loosening of the national lockdown regulations in England.

With the United Kingdom having executed one of the most successful mass vaccination programmes globally, far outstripping the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a “cautious” rollback of the restrictions on citizens’ liberty on Monday afternoon.

This will reportedly include the re-opening of English schools and permission for recreation in public spaces by up to two people — taking a picnic or a flask of tea in a public park, for example — from March 8th, as well as permission for care home residents to receive a single visitor with whom they can hold hands (but not hug).

Restrictions will ease further, circumstances permitting, from March 28th, with outdoor gatherings of up to six people permitted, including in private gardens, and prohibitions against outdoor sports lifted.

It is also thought that people will be allowed to travel beyond their own locality again, although such travel will not be recommended and spending the night away from home will not be allowed.

The government minister with special responsibility for vaccination, Nadhim Zahawi, has described the lockdown relaxation “roadmap” as “steady as she goes”, with an emphasis on “outdoor versus indoor” activities and the “priority being children in schools”.

“Second priority is obviously allowing two people on March 8th to meet outside for a coffee to address some of the issues around loneliness,” he added.

For Britain’s battered hospitality industry, therefore, as well as other custom-facing service providers such as barbers and hairdressers, lockdown pain will continue for some time, with the likelihood being that they will remain shut until at least April.

Business owners focused on these industries have suffered a great deal over the course of the pandemic as a result of the lockdown, with some finding their situation compounded by EU-created caps on allowable state assistance which remained in place despite Brexit — although the government is now considering getting rid of these.

Lockdown easing will progress differently in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as restrictions in the United Kingdom’s smaller Home Nations are largely the responsibility of their devolved governments — roughly equivalent to state governments in the United States.

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