The first day pubs and restaurants in England reopened coincided with atrocious weather, but the Brits weren’t going to let snow get in the way of alfresco drinking.
Nothing was going to get between thirsty Brits and a pint or a meal after four months of lockdown – not even driving rain or snow flurries.
On Monday, shops, gyms and outdoor dining areas in pubs and restaurants reopened across England following a dramatic fall in coronavirus cases.
Pubs in the other parts of the UK – Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – will reopen their gardens for outdoor drinking over the coming weeks.
Unfortunately for those in England eager for a big glass of warm ale, the weather had other ideas.
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Despite the assumption by some that Britain is always on the cool side, the cold snap that swept across the islands this week has been very much out of the ordinary.
The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological agency, said “unusually chilly air” from the Arctic was streaming towards the UK which would see temperatures plummet to -8C in some areas, just a few weeks out from summer.
London peaked at just 9C on Monday, the first day people could drink socially again. Overnight it dropped below freezing in the capital.
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Flurries of snow were experienced across the south east of England in counties including Berkshire and Kent as well as London.
Nonetheless people happily munched on alfresco kebabs in Surrey as the white stuff fell all around them and took their umbrellas to beer gardens in Hampshire.
UK newspaper The Times spoke to customers drinking lager in the cold morning air at the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, Kent.
Pippa Ingram was in one of England’s biggest beer gardens. “Absolutely delicious,” she said. “It’s not going to last long at all.”
The UK has been one of the nations hit hardest by COVID-19 with 4.3 million cases and 127,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
At the peak in early January, the UK recorded 68,000 infections in a single day. It’s now regularly seeing below 3000. While that number might send much of Australia into lockdown, in Britain it’s low enough to see lockdown restrictions ease.
Britain’s confidence has been bolstered by its success in rolling out vaccines. Close to 40 million shots have been administered with more than half the population having got at least one jab which provides a level of protection. Around 12 per cent of people have been fully vaccinated.
However, an outbreak of a more vaccine resistant strain of COVID-19, first found in South Africa, in parts of south London has led to “surge testing” to be introduced.
Authorities have urged locals surged to get swabbed and use using home testing kits to try to contain any spread.