RISHI SUNAK interacted with traders at a London street market on Monday, assuring that business would pick up in coming days as people started to get their lives back to normal following the lockdown easing.
“How’s it been? Slow? It’ll get busier,” the chancellor told a market trader at the Tachbrook Market in Pimlico, where he bought a take-away lunch of falafel. “It’ll take a bit of time but we’ll get there.”
He added that the UK was “at the stage of that plan when we can get our lives a little bit more back to normal – but that is not an overnight, big bang thing – it is measured, progressive”.
“We are doing it in a safe and responsible way,” he said.
“Hopefully at the beginning of July we will be able to get many more restaurants and pubs open as well,” he said. “People should have the confidence to go out there and get their lives a little bit more back to normal.”
Sunak reminded people that the country was “able to take these steps because of what we have achieved together so far”.
Monday saw younger children returning to schools in England and Parliament gearing up to resume normal functioning in a day as the world’s second-worst-hit country in the coronavirus outbreak took its biggest step yet out of a lockdown.
Outdoor markets also swung open their gates and car showrooms tried to lure back customers and recoup losses suffered since Britain effectively shut down for business on March 23.
But sales at stalls were slow and some schools had half-empty classrooms due to lingering fears that a virus that has officially killed 38,500 people in Britain — and probably thousands more — was still circulating.
Meanwhile, London’s Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said some current rules — such as those allowing people to gather in groups of six in England — were unenforceable.
“I don’t think the public are taking much notice of what is laid down in front of them,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “They are doing it how they want to do it.”
English parks and beaches have been inundated with people over two successive weekends during what meteorologists said was the driest May in more than 100 years.
Police had warned after seeing growing numbers ignore social distancing measures a week ago that they were serious about sanctioning those who gather in large groups.
But some London parks looked like one giant party on Sunday, and the police issued just a tiny fraction of the fines they had before people were allowed to leave their homes more freely on May 13.
A top police source said the government was informed that “unless it’s a huge gathering” the rules were “pretty much unenforceable now”.