It wasn’t quite New Year’s Eve, but there was certainly a similar vibe as the clock struck midnight last night.
In nightclubs across England, people sat patiently until 12am when they could legally stand up and dance with one another for the first time in 16 months.
People packed into Fabric in London and Pryzm, Bristol, with no social distancing as restrictions that had prevented them from opening finally came to an end.
Fundraiser Chloe Waite, 37, who was first in the queue at Egg in the capital, said the occasion was ‘something we’re going to remember for a long time’.
She said: ‘It’s going to be a special night. 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, said he had ‘been waiting for this for so long’.
He added: ‘I love going to clubs and I love meeting random people. You make great friends and you couldn’t do that until tonight. I’ve been here for an hour, I’m really keen.’
Dolores Frankenstein admitted it would be ‘a bit overwhelming to be around so many people again’.
She added that she was ‘open-minded’ but ‘a bit bored of queuing already’.
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.’
But old frustrations were quick to return as others admitted they hadn’t missed long queues and sore feet.
Boris Johnson has been accused of being ‘reckless’ by lifting almost all remaining restrictions in one go.
Global health experts have warned the decision is a danger to the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the PM of ‘essentially putting the whole nation into a car, pressing the accelerator and taking the seatbelt off’.
The prime minister will spend Freedom Day isolating after he was pinged by NHS Test and Trace following contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid who tested positive.
He defended the move in a video message on Sunday saying ‘if we don’t do it now, we have to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it?’
He continued: ’But we’ve got to do it cautiously. We’ve got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there. Cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.
‘But we have this immense consolation and satisfaction that there is no doubt at all that the vaccine programme – the massive vaccination programme – has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, and between infection and serious illness and death.
‘So please, please, please be cautious and go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to present.’
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