If you’re not reading this from the deep recesses of a restaurant, a hotel bar or your local pub then what on earth are you waiting for? The moment we’ve been waiting for since mid-December has arrived, we’re able to return, indoors, to all our favourite haunts.

But, of course, the pandemic’s not over, both at home and abroad people are still being infected and are still dying, and rightly there are some restrictions remaining, so here’s what you can (and can’t) do now we’ve hit this most momentous day in the reopening of England…

Amazonico, we've been counting the days!

You can eat inside again!

Can you believe that restaurants have been shut for six months? It’s completely wild and unprecedented in history. Even Black Death didn’t shut the industry. Although restaurants, pubs and bars have been open outdoors for a month, so many have had to remain shuttered because they simply don’t have the outdoor space, or enough of it to be viable.

But nevertheless, the entire industry has been eagerly waiting for this moment just as much as we have. With staff now back off furlough, kitchens roaring back into action, things are finally on-track once again. Social distancing is still on, it’s table service only and expect masked waiters, but we’re back in our favourite restaurants again…

Here are all the restaurants The Handbook team are most excited to be visiting…

And hotels are back!

I can’t emphasise enough how much I miss hotels. The over-enthusiastic welcome, the pristine room with a bed you won’t be able to get back out of, and there is nothing quite like a steaming bath in a hotel bathroom followed by the descent to a delicious dinner.

The only choice remaining, then, is between a country house hotel, with long walks and idyllic views, or a London staycation with all the (reopened) sites and sounds of the capital. And choice is  sort of the key to all these changes today, we’ve had zero choice for the best part of the last 14 months, so from now you actually have the agency to choose.

Or you can just go to stay with friends or family…

Heckfield, we can't wait to be back!
Did you hear someone upstairs?

Sleepovers are back on!

Get over here, we’re having a pyjama party! The rule-of-six that previously applied outdoors has moved indoors, and so can you at the first sign of rain. So get either 5 others over, or an unlimited number if it’s just two households.

Get over here, we're having a pyjama party

The advice is still to keep things outside where possible and to keep your house well ventilated, but finally we can go home and stay with family, or have friends over to stay.

As is hugging!

Can you believe that it’s been illegal (passed by parliament, signed by the queen) to take a boy or girl back to your flat? Hugging outdoors was never, actually, against the law though it was seriously discouraged.

But Boris has been clear that hugging is to return from today. Though the advice is to exercise caution as to who you embrace, as this is a very good way to transmit Covid, hugging is back!

Of course, for many of us, the elbow bump has actually become preferred to a firm handshake. Firstly you’re not judged on a bump like a handshake, your bones aren’t cracked by a ‘gripper’ and you don’t have to spend the meal mentally assessing if the person opposite is a hand washer or not…

People used to do this!

Cinema & Theatre? Bingo!

Bingo halls, cinemas and theatres can restart again. With most big-screen releases being made on streaming services the last year, we’ve missed cinema screens and sound. Guaranteed releases like Tom Hanks’ Greyhound would’ve made way more sense in the cinema than on your 26″ telly.

Meanwhile, unlike most of the economy, the West End stayed firmly shut throughout last summer’s covid ceasefire, with theatre box offices unmanned for well over a year now.

Expect ball-pit hell as children’s play areas, and the dreaded ‘soft play’ will also whirr back into operation too.

Your work conference is back on though…

If the one good thing about lockdown was that you didn’t have to travel off to huge conference halls, Linkedin requests and endless breakfast meetings, bad news: they’re back. Order in the pastries and orange juices, conference halls will once again be open, though with capacity of 1,000 or 50% capacity (whichever is lower).

Huge conference halls, Linkedin requests and endless breakfast meetings...

The same will go for concerts and sports events indoors. Which is incredible news if you’re nuts for live music and you’ve not head a single strum of a guitar (or a mandolin if Mumford & Sons is on) for going on a year.

Yay, I can be PowerPointed to death again...
Referee! That player clearly coughed...

Downward dog ahead!

Anyone who has missed spinning classes (liar), yoga or group exercise indoors can back their roll mat this morning. Indoor exercise and group sports competitions can restart.

Great news if you’re into football

If you’re sick of the words ‘played behind closed doors’ then there’s good news for you. Big stadium events, including Premier League football, will be back in front of a crowd.

Stadia will be allowed to host up to 10,000 fans per match, or 25 per cent of seated capacity, to watch sporting events. This comes after government trials at a match in Liverpool earlier this month. The evidence seems to be that outdoors there is little chance of transmitting covid.

Awkward news if you’ve spent the last year claiming that the Cheltenham Festival was responsible for the outbreak…

Up to 30 friends can meet up outside!

If your social life hasn’t suffered a huge coronary this past year then you’ve either been breaking every rule in the book or you had a very quiet life pre 2020.

But if you still have 29 friends, you can invite them all to a barbecue or big outdoorsy event without worrying about a visit from Cressida Dick and 100 truncheoned officers.

This goes for weddings too

Currently only 15 people can gather for a wedding, but now the limit has doubled to a still rather bijou 30. So, fewer excuses for not inviting your least favourite aunt. The same goes for christenings and bar mitzvahs, though it’s worth mentioning that dancing is still against the rules…

Meanwhile funerals are dispensed with capacity rules altogether, so long as the value can safely seat the number proposed.

Of course increased capacity means fewer excuses to not invite family members...
Lisbon, the new New York..

And you can go abroad too!

The government has published the so-called Green List of countries that you can now visit for leisure and not incur a ten day quarantine or, worse, costly hotel quarantine.

Given most of the list simply won’t let Brits in (they might as well put the Moon on the list as new Zealand, as you’ve about the same chance of getting there) or else they’re completely inaccessible, islands in the middle of nowhere.

So basically you can go to Portugal, Iceland and Gibraltar. And, let’s face it, it’s going to be Portugal, isn’t it?

So what’s still forbidden?

Within most of these unlockdowning elements there are limitations. You can meet indoors, but only with six others. You can go to a football match, but not at capacity. You can go to a pub, but it’s table service only. You can go abroad, but only to Portugal. That kind of thing. Limitations still remains.

You will also still have social distancing rules and mask regulations. It is hoped that these will be dropped in another five weeks time, but even if they are it might be a generation until you get on a train and don’t see a single mask-wearer again.

And there are some things which are still deemed just too unsafe. Namely nightclubbing, which will not return along with the rest of hospitality. And the same goes for lap-dancing (which does, to be fair, make sense) and similar adult entertainment venues. The earliest they’ll open will be June 21st, though the government may still want to wait…

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