James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Revellers flock to England's pubs in first Friday night since hospitality returned
16 April 2021, 23:04 | Updated: 17 April 2021, 07:45
Happy revellers across England have enjoyed their first Friday night at the pub in months.
Ahead of the first weekend since the country lifted its latest Covid lockdown restrictions, outdoor table service was taken full advantage of by drinkers able to book a place.
Customers have been able to enjoy outdoor hospitality all week, but as friends met for a Friday night pint and laughter and chatter echoed down formerly vacant high streets, the country feels to be taking a much bigger step towards normality.
There are predictions that England's pub-goers will fully embrace the return of their local, with five million pints reportedly set to be drunk today.
It is the first Friday that every pub in England capable of outdoor service can serve since October, when Tier 3 restrictions began being imposed in some places.
Despite the jovial scenes, nobody is under the illusion this is exactly how things used to be.
There are still restrictions in place besides the ban on indoor service.
Revellers can only meet outdoors in groups of up to six and people are advised to keep a safe distance from those they don't live with.
This week, Public Health England's medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle warned: "Our efforts over many months have helped to suppress the virus, but I want to stress how even more vital it is to follow guidance as we go back to doing the things we have missed for so long.
"Many countries, including those on our doorstep, are facing another dangerous wave.
"Following guidance continues to be a matter of high protection for us all."
There are also fears about new variants, with one first detected in India having arrived in the UK.
The largest surge testing operation yet has been deployed in parts of London after the South African variant, which experts fear may be more resistant to vaccines, was detected in more than 40 cases.
This week has also seen the return of non-essential retail, outdoor service at restaurants and indoor gyms.
The next reopening is due to take place from May 17, if the Government is confident this reopening's effect on the spread of Covid-19 has impacted its road map.
Up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors, and the rule of six will be allowed indoors, with pubs able to serve people inside.