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UK to loosen social distancing restrictions and reopen bars


UK to loosen social distancing restrictions and reopen bars

A social distancing sign on the London Bridge
Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

The UK will loosen its COVID-19 restrictions today, reopening bars and pubs and reducing social distancing requirements from two metres to one where possible.

The Conservative government is anxious to restart the UK economy amid reports from the OECD of an annual economic contraction between 11% and 14% of GDP. PM Boris Johnson’s public image has taken a serious hit, with only 43% of the population approving of the government’s COVID-19 response, down from 72% in March.

The success or failure of the UK’s reopening could have serious implications for economic recovery and the popularity of Johnson’s government. Should the UK experience an upward surge of infections—as in the US—there could be a further loss of confidence in the Conservative Party. However, easing restrictions, especially the two-metre social distancing requirement, is a major first step towards long term economic recovery as more businesses can now reopen and operate. The markets experienced a noticeable uptick following easing announcements at the end of June, increasing 1.2%, and are expected to continue rising as reopening begins.

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