LONDON (REUTERS) - London clubbers on Monday (July 19) flocked to one of the first rule-free live music events since the pandemic began last year, dancing through the night and rejoicing in human interaction as England lifted most Covid-19 restrictions at midnight.
Britain, which has one of the world's highest death tolls from Covid-19, is facing a new wave of cases, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is lifting most restrictions in England in what some have dubbed "Freedom Day".
Epidemiologists are generally sceptical that lifting restrictions is the right thing to do, but many young British people have had enough of more than one-and-a-half years of lockdowns and crave a party.
"I have not been allowed to dance for like what seems like forever," said Ms Georgia Pike, 31, at the Oval Space in Hackney, east London. "I want to dance, I want to hear live music, I want the vibe of being at a gig, of being around other people."
Besides the zest for fun, though, there were also clear concerns about a wave of new cases - more than 50,000 per day across the United Kingdom.
"I am so excited - but it's mixed with the sense of impending doom," said Mr Gary Cartmill, 26.
Inside the club, revellers, some with pints in their hands, some simply elated by the music, danced through the night. Many hugged, some kissed, a few wore masks.
After rushing to vaccinate its population faster than almost all other European countries, Mr Johnson's government is betting that England can reopen as fully vaccinated people are less likely to get seriously ill with Covid-19.
Promoters of the event Rob Broadbent and Max Wheeler-Bowden put up a video of themselves getting a Covid-19 test and urged those told to isolate to do so.
They said they reduced the number of bands and the number of venues and lost money on the event because fewer people than expected attended.
British society appears split on the restrictions: some want tough rules to continue as they fear the virus will keep killing people, but others have chafed at the most onerous restrictions in peacetime history.
Business owners - including those of nightclubs and travel companies and in the hospitality industry - have been desperate to reopen the economy while many students, young people and parents have quietly disregarded many of the most onerous rules. Artists have said the lockdown has been tough.
James Cox, the 32-year-old lead singer of Crows, a post-punk band playing at the Oval Space, said the last time he performed live was on Halloween in October 2020.
"Before this, I had a bit of apprehension that I was not going to like it because it's been so long," Cox said. "As soon as I stood on that stage and started sound-checking, I was like: oh yeah I do like this, I do love this, I was like, this is my passion."