The UK government’s latest round of lockdown easing came into effect in England on Monday, with people relishing the prospect of an outdoor pint and a much-needed haircut as social restrictions start to be withdrawn.
Hairdressers and bars opened at midnight in anticipation of high demand as people braved the ongoing cold to emerge from an enforced winter hibernation, following a distressing start to 2021 blighted by a dangerous surge in Covid-19 infections that necessitated the implementation of a third national lockdown.
While the vaccine rollout continues apace and the national mood is positive, prime minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “behave responsibly”, continue to abide by rules on masks and distancing and not to allow themselves to become carried away by their new freedoms for fear of sparking a fresh resurgence of the virus.
Much of the attention at the start of the week will be on the reopening of barbershops, eateries, non-essential shops, gyms and swimming pools but they are not the only businesses throwing opening their doors again in relief.
Nail salons and beauty parlours are also back in action, with companies like Secret Spa getting ahead of the curve by offering at-home treatments across London, Manchester and Brighton from midnight.
Driving lessons can also be resumed so that learners can get some further practice in with instructors before testing centres return on 22 April.
For families who have exhausted the possibilities of streaming, games consoles, Monopoly, baking and mandatory country walks and are, quite frankly, sick of the sight of each other, help is at hand.
Zoos and theme parks are open again from Monday, although Covid safeguards will be in place to avoid the possibility of the virus spreading through long queues at the ticket office and snack stands.
Libraries also return, meaning readers are free to browse the shelves in person once more, rather than simply reserving and collecting books online, as do community centres offering activities such as exercise classes or socially-distanced choir practice.
Children – who are thought to be less vulnerable to Covid – can also be reunited with their friends and classmates in all other indoor activities from Monday, such as leisure centre swimming and sports, although their parents will still be required to keep their distance.
There is also relief in store for lonely care home residents, each of whom will now be entitled to entertain a second visitor.
Weddings can now go ahead with 15 guests and funerals take place with as many as 30 mourners lining the pews.
Finally, the border between England and Wales reopens to non-essential travel, opening up a new westren frontier for English daytrippers and promising a lift to the Welsh tourism sector and economy.