Today marks the day that most coronavirus restrictions in England were lifted.
Venues like nightclubs, which typically host a large number of people in close proximity in an indoor space, have been closed since the start of the pandemic to reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19 infections.
Now, despite case numbers surging, the government has lifted restrictions, allowing all venues to legally open with no limits on capacity due to the virus.
At midnight on so-called “Freedom Day”, revelers headed out to the clubs that have clearly been hugely missed, with people queuing for venues. Some said it felt like “like New Year” and that they’d “missed the buzz” of a night out.
Speaking outside Egg, fundraiser Chloe Waite, 37, who was first in the queue, said the occasion was “something we’re going to remember for a long time.”
“It’s going to be a special night,” she told the PA news agency. “For me, this is a New Year’s-type event and something we’re going to remember for a long, long time and we might not get the opportunity for a while.”
Gabriel Wildsmith, 26, a video producer from London, who joined Ms Waite at the front of the line said he had missed “meeting random people” and making friends. “I’m so excited I’ve been waiting for this for so long … basically since we locked down,” he said.
The excitement was just as palpable in Leeds, where patrons queued to enter Bar Fibre.
“It feels so special,” said bar owner Terry George. “People are treating it like a very special occasion, like a New Year’s Eve type affair. Freedom Eve is what we’re calling it.
“Finally, we’re going to be able to dance. That’s the biggest thing, which is kind of a little bit sad really, because we’re given back something that’s our given right, to be able to dance in a bar, in a club.”
Others shared their excitement on Twitter:
But, with restrictions fully lifted, some revelers admitted they did have feelings of “apprehension”, though others said there was “zero” to worry about.
Actor Alex Clarke, 40, said: “There’s a bit of apprehension and uncertainty about the protocols. But as long as everyone is sensible then it’ll be alright.”
Kevin Ally, 45, who works in professional services, said: “I think we’re over-analysing it, it’s going to be awesome. There’s zero concern. The only concern is why we haven’t been here for a year and a half. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been out.”
On social media, others were clearly worried about what these events might do to the already rising coronavirus numbers.
Elsewhere, theatres and restaurants can fully reopen, while pubs are no longer restricted to table service only.
Face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport, limits on gathering have gone and the work from home guidance has ended.
However, with new cases of the virus already having passed the 50,000-a-day mark, some scientists have expressed concern at the ending of restrictions while the Delta variant is spreading so rapidly.
Professor Neil Ferguson – whose modeling led to the first lockdown in March 2020 – said they could reach 200,000 before the current wave of the pandemic finally peaked.
He said that could result in 2,000 hospital admissions a day leading to “major disruption” and further backlogs in NHS services.
Meanwhile, businesses have warned of shortages on the shelves as the number of people off work after being pinged by the NHS Covid app continues to rise.