How the world reported the UK’s ‘joyful’ lockdown easing

Drinkers brave icy weather to celebrate amid hope that vaccine success means ‘no going back’ to Covid restrictions

Drinkers outside a pub in Windsor
Drinkers outside a pub in Windsor
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

While much of the world remains under lockdown, the UK yesterday offered a tantalising glimpse of a return to normality as pubs and hospitality venues reopened after almost four months of Covid restrictions.

“Chilly weather” failed to deter Brits who “flocked to shed shaggy locks and browse for clothes, books and other ‘non-essential’ items”, as shops, gyms and hairdressers also welcomed back customers, says The Washington Post.

“Long lines formed outside some stores”, the paper continues, and restaurants and pubs reported a “flood of bookings” as people across England planned “outdoor meals and drinks, despite unseasonably cold weather that brought springtime snow flurries to many areas”.

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Pints knocked back in pub gardens after “one of the longest and most stringent” lockdowns in the world brought “pure joy”, adds The New York Times, as “a frisson of life” returned to “streets long frozen in a state of suspended animation”.

“Friends reunited, families shared a meal at an outdoor cafe together for the first time in months, and as Britons basked in the late afternoon sun”, cold weather gave way to “a collective smile and sigh of relief”, the paper reports.

As La Repubblica notes, “the relationship between the British and beer is a well-known love story”. Some determined drinkers “booked five weeks in advance” or more to ensure they could celebrate the lockdown easing as “life started again from the pub”, the Italian newspaper reports.

The lifting of restrictions has provided “a much-needed morale boost to the British public”, says CNBC, and “a number of pubs with 24-hour licences opened as soon as they were allowed”.

Indeed, “some folk lined up after midnight to raise a pint with fellow revellers” first thing on Monday, adds The Irish Times.

Many people also “braved chilly temperatures to queue outside their favourite shops” as lockdown ended “with a bang” and some big spending, says The National. The United Arab Emirates-based paper reports that “about 1,000 customers lined up at Ikea in Bristol”, with similar scenes outside shops of all kinds across the country as the UK’s vaccine rollout success bolsters consumer confidence.

Al Jazeera says that “the prime minister had promised to visit a pub himself to mark” the next step in his roadmap out of lockdown. But Boris Johnson chose to “postpone the celebratory drink” following the death of Prince Philip on Friday.

Reporting from Brighton, the broadcaster’s Rory Challands argued that the PM’s pandemic response appears to have resulted in victory following a nerve-racking “game of two halves”.

“The first half was absolutely terrible with the government making seemingly an endless series of own goals,” Challands said. “What the government did early on was bet very, very heavily on the vaccine programme and was one of the first countries in the world to roll it out... that has meant that the government in the second half has picked up.

“And people are now feeling much more positive.”

The situation “stands in contrast” to that in many neighbouring nations, says The Washington Post. Countries in both Europe and further afield are introducing tough new coronavirus measures “to combat surging infections and deaths”.

Vaccine rollouts across the globe offer reason for optimism, however, with the UK now looking towards a post-Covid future.

As public venues nationwide finally reopened on Monday, “after so many false dawns, there was a widespread hope that, this time, there would be no going back”, says the NYT.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.