Eager shoppers form long queues as stores and pubs reopen across West Midlands

Eager shoppers formed long queues outside stores across the West Midlands as England's shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes reopened today.

Early morning shoppers queue to get into Primark in Birmingham
Early morning shoppers queue to get into Primark in Birmingham

More than 100 people waited in line outside the world's biggest Primark in Birmingham city centre ahead of the shop reopening at 7am on Monday.

Similar scenes took place up and down the country, including at the new McArthurGlen West Midlands designer outlet in Cannock which was opening for the very first time on Monday.

Shoppers arrive at the newly-opened McArthur Glen designer outlet at Cannock
Shoppers arrive at the newly-opened McArthur Glen designer outlet at Cannock
The McArthur Glen designer outlet opens in Cannock. Pictured, first in the queue: Olivia Hopton, Samuel Cooper and Harry Cantaill

Salon Strand & Lock in the Custard Factory complex staff welcomed its first customer in months on Monday as thousands of non-essential businesses including hairdressers, gyms and outdoor pubs reopened.

Lizzie Hewitt, the salon’s co-owner, said it was “great” to finally be able to open again, but that another lockdown would be “make or break” for their business, which only opened in November 2019.

Lizzie Hewitt said the last month has been difficult (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Strand & Lock’s first customer, Amy Smith, who lives locally, was in the hairdresser’s chair for 7am.

She has not been to a stylist since before the original lockdown last year, adding she was “thrilled” to finally be getting her hair done.

Stacey Wainwright, owner of Creative Beauty Boutique in Wolverhampton, is looking forward to seeing her clients again

She said: “My diary was fully booked in January and February, so I have had to prioritise those customers before getting new clients booked in. It’s really good to be busy again.

“The customers have been waiting a long time for this, some of them have been coming for years and they have been so loyal throughout the pandemic, we are so grateful to have this customer base.”

Meanwhile attractions such as Dudley Zoo, Black Country Living Museum, Go Ape Cannock and Alton Towers were back open and expecting large but socially distanced crowds with many schools still off for the Easter holidays.

Angus McMeeking, from Black Country Ales in Kingswinford, said: “We are delighted to have a chance to trade again, albeit only outside until May, but we’re hugely looking forward to it and our licensees and customers are too."

Black Country Ales MD Angus McMeeking

But while the general public has been urged to visit their local shops and high street, there is still a clear public health message, from politicians, the police and health officials, that people should abide by Covid rules, to help prevent a rise in infection rates.

Sandwell Council, which has battled some of the highest infection rates in the country, has asked the public to vote with their feet and avoid businesses not following Covid-19 guidance.

Boris Johnson urged the nation to "behave responsibly" as life took another step back towards normality, with indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos also welcoming customers.

Wales was also enjoy renewed freedoms from Monday, with non-essential retail reopened and border restrictions eased to permit travel again with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Shoppers in Dudley town centre today

Remaining school pupils returned to face-to-face teaching in Wales and Northern Ireland, in moves being echoed in Scotland as some pupils return from their Easter breaks.

The "stay at home" order in Northern Ireland also ended as the number of people permitted to meet outdoors increased from six to 10.

April snow showers made al fresco dining a chilly prospect in parts of southern England but the wintry conditions appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm as customers queued outside shops and waited for hairdressers to cut locks after months without a trim.

Dudley Market trader Pete Singh, celebrates now being able to sell clothes again

Despite the relaxation in lockdown rules, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.

The Prime Minister urged caution during the "major step forward" as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.

"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," Mr Johnson said.

"I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme."

Baskets are given out to customers at Birmingham Primark

The need for continued vigilance was underlined by former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who highlighted a surge in cases in Chile despite a successful vaccination campaign.

He told Sky News: "From the point of view of the population itself, we're all dying to get out of lockdown.

"From the point of view of the epidemic, I think it's all a little bit more worrying."

He added: "Chile is a country where the rate of vaccination amongst the population was third highest in the world - they were ahead of us in terms of the number of people who have had the vaccine - and they're suddenly now into a third wave."

Early morning shoppers queue to get into Primark in Birmingham

Modelling by Government advisers in the UK has suggested that Monday's relaxation will not result in a surge of cases that would put pressure on the NHS, but it is "highly likely" that there will be a further resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths after subsequent steps along the road map out of lockdown.

The fanfare for the easing of restrictions has been muted by the national mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr Johnson postponed his celebratory pint and Government communications have been pared back to essential messages after Philip's death on Friday at the age of 99.

Secret Spa co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks, who opened her beauty company's at-home salon services up for clients at midnight, said Monday's bookings are set to double the company's best-ever day to date.

She added: "It's so amazing. It's just been such a long time coming."

Some of the first shoppers at Primark Birmingham

In England, pubs and restaurants have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.

But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the "rule of six" - if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.

After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.

Around 61% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14% have had both doses.

Mr Johnson welcomed a "record-breaking day" for second doses after figures reported on Sunday stated a rise of 475,230 jabs.

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