English pubs prepare to reopen

Pubs in England and Northern Ireland are preparing to reopen on Saturday.
Pubs in England and Northern Ireland are preparing to reopen on Saturday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to behave "sensibly" as pubs, cafes and restaurants in England and Northern Ireland prepared to reopen after a three-month closure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some pubs and restaurants have already opened outdoor seating areas and takeaway services, but they will be allowed to admit customers under social distancing rules from Saturday.

Johnson has encouraged people to spend in shops, pubs and restaurants to help revive the economy following the severe impact of the pandemic.

He told London radio station LBC that Britain's estimated rate of coronavirus infection had fallen from "about one in 400 a few weeks ago to maybe one in 2200 today."

The drop in reported infections would allow Britain "carefully and cautiously to open up hospitality tomorrow," Johnson said.

"My message is to enjoy summer sensibly, and make sure it all works," he said. "Let's not blow it now, folks."

Police and politicians have raised concerns that the reopening of pubs, in particular, could encourage people to ignore social distancing rules.

But in Newcastle, known as one of Britain's liveliest city centres, officials said only about 30 per cent of pubs and restaurants planned to reopen on Saturday, The Guardian reported.

JD Wetherspoon, one of Britain's biggest pub chains, said it had reduced and rearranged furniture to encourage social distancing, and installed protective screens in some pubs.

All customers will be required to give their names and contact details to allow tracking in case of local coronavirus outbreaks.

Australian Associated Press