London, May 17 : People in England, Scotland and Wales can now sit indoors in pubs and restaurants and can hug each other again, in the biggest single lifting of coronavirus restrictions since the start of the UK's successful vaccination campaign.
While bars and restaurants in England and Wales are reopening their indoor seating areas for the first time in months on Monday, Scottish venues where this was already possible can now serve alcohol indoors again, reports dpa news agency.
Larger groups of people in the three nations can also meet socially: for indoors the limit in England is now up to six people or two households; for outdoors the maximum is 30.
After consistent guidance since spring last year to avoid direct contact with people not in their own family or so-called "support bubble", UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised citizens that they can now make their own "informed decisions" and be "cautious" when it comes to hugging loved ones.
Other recreational venues such as cinemas, museums, theatres and concert halls are also allowed to reopen in England, Scotland and Wales, although there are capacity limits on large events.
A highly anticipated lifting of the international travel ban has gone into effect in England and Wales, allowing people to travel based on a traffic light grading system.
For "green" countries, British travellers do not have to quarantine when they return home if they test negatively for coronavirus; "amber" or "red" countries mean people do have to quarantine, in the latter case in specific government-approved hotels.
Green list countries include Australia, Brunei and New Zealand, but also countries closer to home include Portugal and Iceland.
Two areas of Scotland, Glasgow and Moray, will maintain stricter restrictions, such as no meeting in private homes and maintaining social distancing, due to a rise in cases of the coronavirus.
Despite the lifting of restrictions, leaders in Scotland and England still urged people to be cautious in their behaviour following a rise in cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus.
Northern Ireland will review its restrictions later this week with a view to easing similar restrictions from May 24.
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