LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – London clubbers flocked to one of the first rule-free live music events since the pandemic began last year on Monday, dancing the night away and rejoicing in human interaction as England lifted most of the COVID restrictions at midnight.
Britain, which has one of the world’s highest death tolls from COVID, faces another wave of cases, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is lifting most restrictions in England on what some have dubbed “Freedom Day”.
Epidemiologists are generally skeptical that lifting restrictions is the right thing to do, but many young Brits are fed up with more than 1 1/2 years of lockdowns and said they are dying to party.
“I haven’t been allowed to dance for what seems like an eternity,” said Georgia Pike, 31, at the Oval Space in Hackney, east London. “I want to dance, I want to hear live music, I want the atmosphere of being at a performance, of other people.”
However, as well as the fun, there was also clear concern about a spate of new cases – more than 50,000 a day in the UK.
“I’m so excited – but it’s mixed with the sense of impending doom,” said Gary Cartmill, 26, outside the “00:01” event that was staged to celebrate the return of live music.
Inside the club, revelers, some with pints in their hands, some simply elated by the music, danced through the night. Many hugged, some kissed, some wore masks.
After rushing to vaccinate the population faster than almost all other European countries, Johnson’s government is betting England can reopen as fully vaccinated people are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19.
Promoters of the event, Rob Broadbent and Max Wheeler-Bowden, posted a video showing them getting a COVID test. They urged the people to isolate themselves.
They said they reduced the number of bands and the number of venues and lost money on the event because fewer people attended than expected.
British society seems divided over the restrictions: some want strict rules enforced because they fear the virus will continue to kill people, but others are annoyed by the toughest restrictions in peacetime history.
Business owners – including nightclubs, travel companies and the hospitality industry – have tried desperately to reopen the economy, while many students, youth and parents have quietly ignored many of the most thorny regulations.
Artists say the lockdown has been tough.
James Cox, the 32-year-old lead singer of Crows, a post-punk band that plays at The Oval Space, said the last time he performed live was on Halloween 2020.
“Before that, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like it because it’s been so long,” Cox said. “As soon as I got on that stage and started sound checking, I was like, oh yeah, I like this, I really like this, I was like, this is my passion.”
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Kate Holton
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.