Happy golfers, anxious commuters as England eases lockdown

LONDON — (AP) — The sound of crisply struck golf balls could be heard in England for the first time in nearly two months as courses reopened Wednesday, part of a modest easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

But delight at the resumption of some recreation was mixed with anxiety among commuters and transit staff as people began to return to workplaces.

After seven weeks of lockdown, people in England were allowed to exercise more than once a day and with one person from outside their household, provided they remained 2 meters (around 6.5 feet) apart. Other sporting activities, such as tennis, fishing, boating and lake swimming, also resumed.

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David Baillie, the pro at Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club in southeast London, said 170 members booked tee-off times to play in pairs on Wednesday and that all slots are taken through Tuesday.

“It's gone swimmingly well,” he said.

Stores selling gardening supplies reported busy trade as they reopened, and potential home buyers were told they could once again visit properties. And, importantly in the context of getting the ailing British economy back on its feet, people who can't work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, were being encouraged by the government to return to work if they can do so safely.

Some construction sites have resumed work, and automaker Ford announced plans to restart production at two factories in the U.K.

The easing of restrictions applies only in England. The semi-autonomous governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are going more slowly and sticking with the “Stay Home” message, partly because the epidemic is at different stages in different parts of the country,

Johnson justified the modest easing on the grounds that Britain has passed the peak of the outbreak, with deaths and new infections in decline. The U.K. has officially recorded the most coronavirus-related deaths in Europe, more than 33,000, a toll second only to the United States.

The government is trying to defeat the outbreak while gradually restarting an economy that shrank by 2% in the first quarter of the year, with output falling 5.8% in March, the month everyday life began to shut down. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the U.K. was headed for a "significant recession.

But there was confusion about the "back to work" guidance, first announced by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday. Critics of Johnson's Conservative government say the changes, spelled out in a 50-page document, are confusing and potentially dangerous.

Johnson denied that there had been mixed messaging and told lawmakers that “the common sense of the British people is shining through.”

One of the main concerns centers on how people can travel to work while keeping to social distancing requirements, especially in London, where most commuters use public transit.

Transport for London said that in the morning hours up to 10 a.m., the number of passengers on the capital’s subway system was around 7.3% higher than on the same day last week.

Carl Moss, 39, traveling to his job as a gardener at St. Thomas’ Hospital in central London, said it's been “busier today” and that he'd seen “more office, finance-type people” as well as manual workers.

The union that represents train drivers voiced concerns about overcrowding following images on social media showing passengers crowded together on Tube trains and buses.

At London's Victoria train and subway station, worker Linda Freitas said she felt “anxious and a bit scared” about the prospect of more commuters. A ticket office worker at the station died with COVID-19 last month after being spat at by a man claiming to have the coronavirus.

“If it’s done gradually let’s see, but if it’s too many people then it will be a bit of a problem," Freitas said.

Meanwhile, Johnson is under fire for his government's handling of an outbreak that has infected more than 200,000 Britons — including the prime minister, who spent three nights in intensive care last month.

On Wednesday, the government announced 600 million pounds ($735 million) in funding to stop coronavirus infections in nursing homes. But opponents said the money was too late to save thousands of vulnerable residents.

More than 8,000 people with the coronavirus died in nursing homes up to the start of May, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, and the full figure is likely substantially higher.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused the government of being lax for releasing people from hospitals into nursing homes earlier in the outbreak without testing them for the coronavirus.

Johnson called the situation in care homes “a tragedy” but said the number of infections and deaths was now falling.

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A quiet Waterloo Bridge in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A quiet Waterloo Bridge in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A golfer hits a shot after Sunningdale Golf Club reopened this morning as part of the British government relaxing the coronavirus lockdown measures, in Sunningdale, England, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Tennis courts and golf courses in England can reopen from Wednesday, the sports venues were ordered to be closed in March when Britain imposed a national lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A golfer hits a shot after Sunningdale Golf Club reopened this morning as part of the British government relaxing the coronavirus lockdown measures, in Sunningdale, England, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Tennis courts and golf courses in England can reopen from Wednesday, the sports venues were ordered to be closed in March when Britain imposed a national lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham)
Waterloo Station in London at 9am, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Waterloo Station in London at 9am, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Traffic passes along the M25 London orbital motorway at just before 09:15am local time, near the town of Egham, on the western outskirts of London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Traffic passes along the M25 London orbital motorway at just before 09:15am local time, near the town of Egham, on the western outskirts of London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham)
A gardener works at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A gardener works at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak walks to Downing Street in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. The British economy shrank 2% in the first quarter of the year from the previous three-month period, the biggest quarterly decline since the global financial crisis of 2008 even though it included just one week of the coronavirus lockdown, official figures showed Wednesday. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak walks to Downing Street in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. The British economy shrank 2% in the first quarter of the year from the previous three-month period, the biggest quarterly decline since the global financial crisis of 2008 even though it included just one week of the coronavirus lockdown, official figures showed Wednesday. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) (Frank Augstein)
Golfers putt on the 9th green at Allerton Manor golf course in Liverpool, England after the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on some leisure activities - including tennis, water sports, angling and golf, Wednesday May 13, 2020. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Golfers putt on the 9th green at Allerton Manor golf course in Liverpool, England after the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on some leisure activities - including tennis, water sports, angling and golf, Wednesday May 13, 2020. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) (Peter Byrne)
A golfer hits a shot after Sunningdale Golf Club reopened this morning as part of the British government relaxing the coronavirus lockdown measures, in Sunningdale, England, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Tennis courts and golf courses in England can reopen from Wednesday, the sports venues were ordered to be closed in March when Britain imposed a national lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A golfer hits a shot after Sunningdale Golf Club reopened this morning as part of the British government relaxing the coronavirus lockdown measures, in Sunningdale, England, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Tennis courts and golf courses in England can reopen from Wednesday, the sports venues were ordered to be closed in March when Britain imposed a national lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham)
An almost empty Waterloo Station in London at 9am, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
An almost empty Waterloo Station in London at 9am, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session, in parliament in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session, in parliament in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) (Frank Augstein)
Station staff at a quiet Waterloo Station during rush hour in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Station staff at a quiet Waterloo Station during rush hour in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A man walks past a picture on the side of a building in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A man walks past a picture on the side of a building in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Bicycle racks remain full as commuters stay away, at Waterloo Station in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Bicycle racks remain full as commuters stay away, at Waterloo Station in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Travelers use the escalator at a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Travelers use the escalator at a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler with a dog walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler with a dog walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session, in parliament in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session, in parliament in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) (Frank Augstein)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A traveler walks through a quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Station staff work at a quiet quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Station staff work at a quiet quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A cleaner works at Waterloo Station during rush hour in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A cleaner works at Waterloo Station during rush hour in London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boyd Douglas-Davies, Communications Director for British Garden Centres, arranges a plant display at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boyd Douglas-Davies, Communications Director for British Garden Centres, arranges a plant display at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A customer shops near a social distancing sign at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A customer shops near a social distancing sign at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boyd Douglas-Davies, Communications Director for British Garden Centres, lifts compost bags at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boyd Douglas-Davies, Communications Director for British Garden Centres, lifts compost bags at Osterley Garden Centre in London as the country is in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with garden centres reopening but with extra measures such as social distancing. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth)
In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP) (Jessica Taylor)