Revellers have tasted the first signs of freedom with a pint in London’s Soho, as crowds of people gathered in the heart of the West End – but some warned of “very little” social distancing.
Police officers patrolled busy areas in London on Monday night as hordes of people flocked to Old Compton Street and neighbouring areas to enjoy al-fresco dining and drinks after coronavirus restrictions eased in England.
Several West End streets were closed to traffic between 5pm-11pm to create outdoor seating areas as part of measures implemented by Westminster City Council to support hospitality businesses.
Pictures and videos being shared online show people packed onto tables laden with food and drinks, while several dozen more stood on the streets cheering the first night of pubs and bars reopening.
Attila Kulcsar, a media communications manager, said the crowds felt “like a return to the ‘real’ Soho of the 1990s”.
“Tonight’s atmosphere beats the whole of last summer… it really is like how I imagine VE Day,” the 54-year-old told the PA news agency.
“It’s almost like watching Hogarth paintings come to life in 2021. There is a wonderfully raucous hysteria everywhere. It’s very celebratory.
“There is very little social distancing. A distinct sense that people feel the Covid restrictions have ended.
“There are lots of police around Soho as well as Covid Marshalls, but there is no word from them about social distancing… if anything they seem to be joining in the festivities.”