Some Pubs and Shops Reopen in England, Raising Hopes for Economic Recovery

The pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds, but “Monday is a really positive start.”

By Eshe Nelson

For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, the next bounce began as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England for the first time in months.

In London, friends gathered at tables outside a pub at one minute after midnight to toast the reopening. Others queued in light flurries at 7 in the morning for shops to open their doors. Barbers and beauty salons had long queues, and by lunchtime the outside tables at restaurants had filled up.

But the pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.

The reopening has exposed the businesses that didn’t survive the multiple lockdowns and whose windows have been boarded up for good. Some of the shuttered businesses were once style-setters, such as the Topshop on Oxford Street, one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. Many neighborhood restaurants are now darkened, empty shells.

Last March and April, as the coronavirus spread quickly through Britain, there was an economic slump unlike anything ever seen before as schools, workplaces and businesses shut abruptly. Then a summertime boom, as restrictions eased and the government helped usher people out of their homes with a popular meal-discount initiative called “Eat Out to Help Out.”

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