A major easing of lockdown measures has seen pubs, restaurants, bars, hair salons and cinemas able to open their doors again under modified social distancing restrictions.
Among the pubs looking forward to reopening was The Kings Arms in Church Stretton, which has spread its seats out and will only be offering table service, while hand sanitiser points are spread around the pub.
“We’re excited and nervous at the same time,” said landlady Sherrie Darch-Williams. “It feels like we’re opening the pub for the first time again.”
Meanwhile in Llanymynech on the Shropshire/Powys border the Bradford Arms and Cross Keys were ready to welcome customers but the Dolphin, 100 metres away on the Welsh side of the border, must stay closed.
Police in Shropshire have said they are basing their planning for the evening on a normal New Year’s Eve – what is usually their busiest night of the year.
Superintendent Mo Lansdale, from West Mercia Police, said the force has planned for the weekend and will have officers “in the places they are needed, at the times they are needed.”
Over at West Midlands Police, Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said officers were “praying for rain” for what was likely to be officers’ busiest day of the year.
For most of Shropshire the forecast was cloudy and breezy with light rain throughout the day.
Salons and weddings back
One of the first people in the country to visit a newly-reopened hair salon said it was nice to feel “like normal” again.
Sandra Jacobs was among the first people through the door at Tusk Hair in Camden on Friday night when the north London business opened its doors at midnight.
There were masks, aprons and faceshields aplenty at the salon, but Ms Jacobs described the trip as “such a relief, I can’t tell you”.
Some couples also have not wasted any time before saying “I do” and two key workers got married just moments after the restrictions lifted.
Care home worker Jennifer Wilson and security guard Louise Arnold, both 22, married at the Peace Garden Pergola in the grounds of Runcorn Town Hall, Cheshire, in what was thought to be the first wedding after the updated Covid-19 guidelines came into force.
Ms Wilson said: “Last week the registry office rang and asked if we wanted to be the first couple in the UK to marry after lockdown, and we just said yes.
“We both work nights normally, so the time suited us.”
Social distance reminder
Despite the celebrations, ministers have urged the public not to get carried away.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Daily Mail that 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.
He said: “I’m no killjoy, but the virus can still kill. I don’t want to see bars and pubs have to close again. I love going to the pub and enjoy a pint or two.”
The comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people not to “blow” progress in combating the spread of the disease made during the lockdown as he deployed the Government’s new slogan “enjoy summer safely”.
On Friday, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the pandemic “is a long way from gone” as he urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as guidance is eased.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of the “superspreading” of Covid-19 occurring in pubs.
At a Downing Street press conference, Prof Whitty said: “None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.
“There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.
“Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”