LONDON – Blocking restrictions have been relaxed, pubs opened and crowds flocked to the streets of English cities on Saturday. Many ignored the rules of social distancing and made police complaints. A number of arrests have been made.
John Apter, leader of the Police Federation for England and Wales, warned that it is “crystal clear” that drunk people cannot create social distance.
Apter, who was on patrol in Southampton, a town on the south coast of England, wrote on Twitter that the officers dealt with “anti-social behavior, naked men, possession of class A drugs, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, etc.”
Elsewhere in Brentwood, a small town east of London, special inspector Steve Weaver tweeted after asking people to “have fun” but “behave” that four people had been arrested.
“It didn’t take long,” he wrote.
Some bars, which some British tabloids referred to as “Super Saturday” and British “Independence Day”, had to close prematurely after the first opening three months after the Corona virus was blocked.
The London Metropolitan Police said the majority of the public had followed the social distance guidelines, but some areas of the English capital were “particularly busy”.
Pictures and videos taken in Soho’s nightlife in central London showed crowded streets with very few people wearing masks.
Mark Welford, 61, who runs Bloomsbury Flowers at nearby Covent Garden, went to Soho early Saturday afternoon to see what had gone from zero to essentially normal activity overnight.
Welford was initially pleased to see the pubs in action again, he told NBC News in a phone interview. “But there was clearly no social distancing.”
After watching videos later that evening, he was surprised to see how people behaved: “It was a normal Saturday night before COVID.”
Some did not feel comfortable with the unraveled scene and decided to leave.
“I was wearing my mask and went home. I didn’t feel comfortable there. It felt like the hard work of lockdown was thrown in the trash, ”Stephen Brian Lowe said via a private message on Twitter.
Low, a 20-year-old Kingston-upon-Thames real estate agent, filmed the “absolute madness” scene in London late Saturday night before going home.
The large crowd expressed concerns that the deadliest outbreak in Europe could increase again.
In the southern counties of Devon and Cornwall, police said they had received more than 1,000 calls on Saturday evening, mainly due to alcohol-related disorders.
Four people were arrested in eastern Nottinghamshire and several pubs decided to shut down after alcohol-related antisocial behavior.
Pubs and restaurants have worked hard to prepare for the moment, place tables, put some staff behind plastic counters, and register customers on arrival.
Even so, some pubs decided not to reopen at all on Saturday night as they were still afraid of a coronavirus outbreak. In Leicester, a city in the middle of England, the restriction restrictions were even reintroduced after a local flare earlier this week.
While England was tackling its biggest lockdown easing so far – hairdressing salons, restaurants and museums have also reopened – many think that it was premature given the still high level of coronavirus infection.
On Friday, British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the pandemic in the UK, which has one of the highest pandemic mortality rates in the world, “is far from over.”
According to British health authorities, more than 44,000 people have died from the virus since Sunday.
In other parts of Europe, South Korea and the United States, the reopening of bars and restaurants has been blamed for an increase in the number of patron infections that are losing their inhibitions and giving up social distance among strangers.
Cases continue to increase worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, as more than 11.2 million people have been infected worldwide since Sunday. If there is a lack of test materials, the actual number of cases is unknown.