It seems to have been more like a typical Saturday night than a drunken New Year's Eve. The reopening of pubs in England does not seem to have overwhelmed emergency services as many had feared ahead of the biggest easing of Britain's coronavirus lockdown. But one senior police officer said Sunday it was clear that drunk people struggled, or ignored, social distancing rules, the AP reports. For the most part, people appeared to abide by social distancing rules and rejoiced at the chance Saturday to lift a pint in the company of their mates. But in some places, large crowds raised concerns that the deadliest outbreak in Europe may find fresh legs. On the whole, police said there were no significant issues.
John Apter, chair of the Police Federation, said his shift patrolling Southampton was a busy one, though, with naked men and "happy" drunks as well as "angry" drunks. He said it was obvious that many of those who overindulge cannot, or won't, socially distance. Pubs and restaurants worked to prepare by spacing tables, putting some staff behind plastic counters, and registering customers upon arrival. The wearing of masks is optional, though, even for staff. A store manager in Soho voiced concerns about the crowds Saturday. "Quickly everything got out of control, and by 8-9 pm, it was a proper street party with people dancing and drinking," he said. "Barely anyone was wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing .... [for] many people on one street it was physically impossible."