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Here's what London is like right now

Aug. 06, 2021
5 min read
Here's what London is like right now
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I've been in London for four days now, and as far as I can tell, everything is open and on its way back to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy.

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Masks are no longer required, excluding on public transit, and I've seen few people wearing them on the street and in most public places, including shops, restaurants, pubs, etc.

Oxford Circus, London. (Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted the majority of the United Kingdom's COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, deemed "Freedom Day," when the government anticipated that two-thirds of adults would be fully vaccinated and that every adult would have been offered one dose. As of Aug. 3, 57% of the U.K. population is fully vaccinated.

"The majority of legal restrictions will be removed and people will be expected to protect themselves and others through informed choice," the prime minister said in a press statement on July 12. "The government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport, when mixing with people you don’t normally meet."

"Although there’s never a perfect time to take this step, making the move today gives us the best chance of success. We’re cautiously easing restrictions when we have the natural firebreak of the school holidays and when the warmer weather gives us an advantage," Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said in a statement on July 19. "So we will move forward, with caution, drawing on the defenses we have built, as we set out in our five-point plan two weeks ago."

"London is fully open — nightclubs, bars, pubs, museums, theaters, you name it," says Emily McNutt, TPG global news editor. "For Londoners, it’s great news following months of strict restrictions and a full lockdown from December through April."

The only remaining restriction in place appears to be on London public transit, where masks are still technically required. The government mask mandate on Transport for London was rescinded along with the existing regulations on July 19. Although it is still a requirement, violators are no longer threatened with fines or criminalization.

"Masks are still required on TfL, but I would say that about 70% of people wear them," said McNutt. "Enforcement is pretty much nonexistent."

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People wear masks as they enter the Tube, London's subway system. (Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Some customers are exempt from wearing masks, such as children under the age of 11, TfL employees and those for whom wearing a face covering would cause severe distress.

"We’ve made it still a requirement on TfL services, made it a condition of carriage," a TfL spokesperson told me via phone. "If people refuse and aren't wearing when they should be, they could either be refused entry or removed from service."

Overall, the TfL spokesperson told me they're seeing approximately 86% of riders following the mask mandate, which is now a condition of carriage.

The Russel Square Tube station in London. (Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Even at grocery stores, where masks are still recommended, I observed mask compliance to be about 50-50 among employees and shoppers across the three supermarkets I visited.

(Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Beyond masks, I noticed social distancing reminders on the floor at Waitrose, pictured below.

(Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

At Tesco Express, a smaller grocery store, most people were wearing masks.

(Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

"Mask-wearing in supermarkets still seems very uncertain. Some supermarkets I have been in since Freedom Day arrived have had almost no staff or customers wearing masks, while others are the opposite," said my colleague Ben Smithson, TPG UK's senior editor in London. "I feel a bit strange wearing a mask in a supermarket where nobody else is, equally I feel a bit awkward if I’m the only one not wearing a mask. I imagine people will choose supermarkets based on their personal mask-wearing approach."

Everywhere else, people appear to be making up for lost time, filling up bars, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs; all are open at full capacity, no masks required.

Prince Arthur pub in Euston. (Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

"Pubs are completely back to normal though, which is wonderful," says Smithson. "For the first time during the pandemic, you can walk in without a reservation, go up to the bar and order a pint, which is a quintessentially British thing to do."

In the two weeks since restrictions were lifted, the number of new COVID-19 cases has continued to fall, from 24,425 cases the week of July 24-30, down from 33,100 cases the previous week.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more