Lockdown easing LIVE: Norfolk and Waveney enjoys renewed freedom
- Credit: Jess Coppins
People across Norfolk and Waveney are enjoying renewed freedom with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
From today (May 17), punters can enjoy a meal or drink indoors at pubs, restaurants and cafes across the area.
Step 3 of the government's roadmap allows entertainment venues such as theatres and cinemas to reopen, as well as bowling alleys, bingo halls and amusement arcades.
Attractions such as museums and galleries are also making a welcome return.
Up to two households or six people can now mix indoors and enjoy overnight stays, a theme which extends to hotels and other accommodation.
Meanwhile, holidaymakers are already heading to destinations on the 'green list', which do not require quarantine upon return.
Throughout Monday, our reporters will be out and about in Norfolk and Waveney as the public enjoys taking another step towards normality.
Landlords were reunited with their loyal customers indoors for the first time today - with many pubs reopening to find customers already queuing outside.
The Mischief, an 18th century pub in Fye Bridge, Norwich, has only been open for five weeks out of the past 14 months.
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Dave Spoors, who has frequented the pub a few times a week for the past decade, said he had missed the staff at the watering hole who had become "like family".
He added: "I'll definitely be coming in more this summer to make up for lost time.
"They're so friendly in here - it's like family. And that's what keeps me coming back."
Phil Cutter, landlord at the Murderers, made the decision not to reopen for outdoor service on Timberhill earlier this year.
But as he reopened the doors on Monday morning, he had customers waiting to be seated.
"We knew we were taking a bit of a risk not doing outdoor service," he said. "But seeing people out here just adds to the excitement and the joy of being back."
Elsewhere, there were plenty of happy faces at Jump Warehouse, a trampoline and soft play centre in Diss.
The site was reopening for the first time in almost a year, during which time the old Monsters business was taken over and rebranded as Jump.
And this morning, parents and children alike were chuffed to be back.
Hannah Leamon, mother of two-year-old William and a two-month-old baby, said: "It’s absolutely amazing to be back out again.
"We used to live in Diss and we used to go to Monsters quite a lot. We live further away now but it’s definitely worth the trip - it's looks brilliant in here.
"It’s been really hard being a mum with two children in lockdown. I have just given birth and that has been hard with no baby groups happening, so it’s really nice to be able to get out again, especially with a couple of friends.”
Back in the county town, customers were keen to enjoy a catch-up with friends and family and Cafe 33 on Exchange Street.
Owner Nichola Hay said: "It was lovely to get here this morning and have people queuing outside waiting to get in. Brunch has been really popular, as have takeaway cakes and coffees.
"I was a bit nervous about reopening and how busy we'd be - but now I'm just excited. I think the weekends will be the busiest for us though we are pretty much at full capacity today."
And at the Last Brasserie, on St George's Street, chef and owner Iain McCarten hoped a manic first day back was a sign of things to come.
“We’ve had the courtyard open for outdoor dining and the click and collect meals which have saved us," he said.
"But even then it couldn’t prepare us for how busy it’s been today, which is wonderful.
"It’s great to see the regulars back and we’re hoping to be just as busy over the next few months."
On the coast, whoops and cheers erupted at a bingo hall as the manager proclaimed "eyes down" for the first time in five months.
Players at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth clinked glasses of fizz in celebration, declaring it "a champagne moment".
Maggie Brewer, from Lowestoft, said she "couldn't stop yapping" as she reconnected with friends at the venue - a social lifeline for many.
"It is the people, the company, having a yarn," she said.
"We could not wait. We kept ringing up and getting people to go online to see if the bingo was going to open."
Despite the dull weather, there was a buzz around Downham Market as dozens descended upon the high street on Monday.
The majority of the town's shops were open again and there was a sense of normality as people enjoyed a bite to eat at the Whalebone or Sunshine Cafe.
"We're open" and "welcome back" signs were displayed outside the Downham Market Methodist Church and Downham Market Club.
But neighbouring King's Lynn was anything but buzzing, with almost the only queue at the Corn Exchange as patients lined up for their Covid jabs.
Elsewhere, the town was quiet and there was no stampede to the bar.
At the 12th century White Hart Stores, on St James Street, landlord Neal Durose was optimistic people would return to the pub, one of the town's few live music venues.
"Most people have been vaccinated, the cases in this area have plummeted since the vaccine was dished out and I don't think the Indian variant is going to cause that many problems in this neck of the woods," said Mr Durose.
"As long as people are sensible, I don't see why we can't continue our way out on the other side."
In the heart of Norfolk, first through the door at Strikes bowling alley in Dereham was Mark Wills, who played last year for the British Tenpin Bowling Association’s England seniors team.
“It’s nice to get back on the lanes and start competing,” he said.
"I’ve been practicing at home on an old mattress to keep the hand working. It’s a game in which you have to keep the muscle memory going.
"We’re losing bowling alleys around the country, so it’s nice to have a great centre in Dereham. People ought to come and experience it, because it’s well worth it."
As the government's roadmap reached another milestone, Matt Hancock gave a statement to MPs from 4.15pm this afternoon in the House of Commons.
The health secretary announced that 37-year-olds would be offered the chance to get the coronavirus vaccine from Tuesday (May 18).
Much of Mr Hancock's update concerned the spread of the Indian variant, with more than 2,300 cases now identified across the UK.
Eighty-six local authority areas in the country have more than five cases. There are 483 in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.