'I want to dance': London clubbers cheer end of Covid-19 restrictions

Published Tue, Jul 20, 2021 · 05:50 AM


LONDON clubbers on Monday flocked to one of the first rule-free live music events since the pandemic began last year, dancing through the night and rejoicing in human interaction as England lifted most Covid-19 restrictions at the stroke of midnight.

Britain, which has one of the world's highest death tolls from Covid-19, is facing a new wave of cases, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is lifting most restrictions in England in what some have dubbed "Freedom Day".

Epidemiologists are generally sceptical that lifting restrictions is the right thing to do, but many young British people have had enough of more than 18 months of lockdowns, and crave a party.

"I have not been allowed to dance for like what seems like forever," said Georgia Pike, 31, at the Oval Space in Hackney in east London. "I want to dance, I want to hear live music, I want the vibe of being at a gig, of being around other people."

Beside the zest for fun, though, there was also clear concern about a wave of new cases - more than 50,000 per day across the UK.

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"I am so excited, but it's mixed with the sense of impending doom," said Gary Cartmill, 26.

After rushing to vaccinate its population faster than almost all other European countries, Mr Johnson's government is betting that England can reopen as fully vaccinated people are less likely to get seriously ill with the virus.

Promoters of the event, Rob Broadbent and Max Wheeler-Bowden, put up a video of themselves getting a Covid-19 test and urged those told to isolate to do so.

They said they reduced the number of bands and the number of venues and lost money on the event because fewer people than expected attended.

British society appears split on the restrictions: some want tough rules to continue as they fear the virus will keep killing people, but others have chafed at the most onerous restrictions in peacetime history.

Business owners - including nightclubs, travel companies and the hospitality industry - have been desperate to reopen the economy while many students, young people and parents have quietly disregarded many of the most onerous rules.

Artists say the lockdown has been tough. James Cox, the 32-year-old lead singer of Crows, a post-punk band playing at The Oval Space, said the last time he had performed live was on Halloween 2020.

"Before this, I had a bit of apprehension that I was not going to like it because it's been so long," he said. "As soon as I stood on that stage and started sound-checking, I thought to myself: I do like this, I do love this, this is my passion." REUTERS


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