Clubbers have returned to the bars and dancefloors of nightclubs as England reached its long-awaited ‘freedom day’ today (19 July).

Venues opened their doors at midnight, for the first time in 16 months, as all legal Covid-19 restrictions, namely the one-metre plus rule and the requirement to wear face masks in the majority of settings, were removed.

However the relaxing of restrictions has come with new warning from Prime Minister Boris Johnson for people to be cautious as coronavirus cases are predicted to rise to as many as 200,000 a day by the middle of August.

In a video message recorded at Chequers where Johnson is self-isolating, he said: “If we don’t do it now we’ve got to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? This is the right moment,” he said. “But we’ve got to do it cautiously. We’ve got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there. Cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.”

Several hospitality venues have announced they will be keeping many of their coronavirus safety measures in place, such as Perspex screens, hand sanitiser and order and pay at table.

JD Wetherspoon announced on Friday that it would be revert to measures that were agreed between local authorities, health authorities, licensing authorities and other parties, when pubs reopened in England, after the first lockdown, in July 2020, including floor screens between tables and directional signage.

It said that face masks would be made available for employees and that staff and customers could wear them at their discretion. The NHS & Trace system, or paper forms, will be retained for customers that wish to record their visits on a voluntary basis.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “While risks from COVID- 19 cannot be eliminated completely, we believe that the July 2020 guidelines are a sensible backstop for the industry and strike a fair balance between health, employment and the economy.”

Oakman Inns last week announced it would be retain table-only service from Monday as well as other measures such as hand sanitiser stations and high-intensity and regular cleaning regimes.

Pizza Express is recommending that its employees continue to wear face masks when interacting with guests and it will continue to recommend that customers socially distance in areas where they share space with other households, for example bathrooms and stairwells.

“Our teams will continue to maintain social distancing at all times, and our strict cleaning regimes will all remain in place. This includes regular cleaning every two hours, and each team member washing their hands every 20 minutes (more regularly if handling food). Hand sanitiser stations will all remain in place, and windows and doors will be kept open as much as possible to aid ventilation,” said a spokesperson.