Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A golfer putts on a green after Sunningdale Golf Club reopened this morning as part of the British government relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, in Sunningdale, England, on May 13, 2020.

The Associated Press

People across Britain packed golf courses, tennis courts and public transit on Wednesday as the country’s near-total lockdown eased for the first time in nearly two months.

The U.K. had been under tight restrictions since March 23 but this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a multi-stage plan to lift the lockdown over the next three months. The first step began Wednesday, with people allowed to leave their homes for outdoor activities. Mr. Johnson also encouraged people who can’t work from home to return to their jobs and he said some businesses, such as garden centres, could reopen.

By Wednesday morning, outdoor enthusiasts had headed to golf courses and tennis courts and many tourists flocked to seaside beaches. “It was lovely,” said Ray Holder as he finished 18 holes at the Hunstanton Golf Club in Norfolk. “It’s so good to be back playing. It’s been 50 days.” The club was only open to members and players had to book tee times online. They also couldn’t linger on the course and the clubhouse remained closed along with practice greens.

Story continues below advertisement

Real estate agents began showing houses again on Wednesday and Ford Motor Co. announced plans to reopen its two plants in Wales and England next week.

Not everyone welcomed Mr. Johnson’s plan. Several union leaders worried about scenes of overcrowded underground trains and buses in London, and many businesses have yet to outline physical-distancing guidelines. "Maintaining social distancing on trains and the tube is a massive logistical exercise that requires planning,” said Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. “RMT has made it clear that our members have a right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.”

Mr. Johnson’s decision to stop urging people to stay at home has also caused deep division among regions. Several seaside resorts have balked at reopening beaches and parks, fearing that visitors might spark a resurgence of the virus. The tourism board for Blackpool changed its name on social media this week to “Do Not Visit Blackpool” in a bid to dissuade tourists. “There’s nothing we can do, given the Prime Minister’s advice, to stop people walking on the promenade or the beach, [but] we urge people to not visit Blackpool at the current time,” council leader Simon Blackburn told local reporters this week.

The First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also refused to adopt Mr. Johnson’s plan and kept restrictions largely in place. Most of the powers related to the lockdown have been devolved to the regional governments and they have yet to agree on a U.K.-wide approach to managing the pandemic. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Wednesday that her government might remove some restrictions next week but it wasn’t clear if she would go as far as the Prime Minister. “If I get things wrong, I would rather the price of getting things wrong is that people stay in lockdown for a few more days and that the price is not measured in unnecessary deaths,” she told the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Johnson has dismissed the criticism and insisted the country was working together. “All those who talk about confusion and mixed messages are grossly overstating their position,” he told the House of Commons on Wednesday. “The common sense of the British people is shining through. They can see where we want to go.”

The Prime Minister has been motivated in part by dire warnings about the state of the economy. Figures released Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the economy shrank by 2 per cent in the second quarter, which ended on March 31. That included only a few weeks of the pandemic, which took hold in Britain in mid-March. The ONS said the economy contracted by 5.8 per cent in March and most economists have forecast a far steeper decline in the third quarter. The Bank of England has said the country was on track for the worst recession in 300 years in 2020.

“The speed by which this crisis has onset has been alarming,” said a report by James Smith, a developed-markets economist at ING. Mr. Smith also held out little hope the economy would rebound next year. “The prospects of a ‘V-shape’ recovery have long since faded, and we don’t expect the size of the U.K. economy to return to pre-virus levels until at least 2022.”

Story continues below advertisement

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies