Thousands of businesses open their doors today (12 April) as Covid restrictions across England and Wales are eased.

Non-essential retailers, gyms and outdoor services for restaurants and pubs can resume in England, while non-essential retailers open across Wales.

There have been several reports of some close-contact businesses like hairdressers and beauty therapists offering services at the stroke of midnight, and there are countless instances of shoppers and pub-goers queuing outside their favourite places ready for opening time.

Despite widespread optimism as the economy starts to resume, the British Beer and Pub Association has warned of further difficulties ahead with just 40% of UK pubs believed to have enough outdoor space to re-open.

Hairdressers, beauty salons, zoos and theme parks are also allowed to re-open in England, and holidaymakers can now travel between England and Wales for self-contained accommodation. Wales’ staycation venues were allowed to re-open on 27 March but today marks the day when people from England can book and vice versa.

It marks the biggest easing of Covid restrictions across England and Wales since large parts of the economy were shut down over the Christmas and New Year period. Scotland and Northern Ireland’s easings are happening at a slower pace.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said in a statement: “I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed.”

He also urged the public to “behave responsibly” as they return to more normal life.