June 1 (UPI) -- Retailers and schools across Britain reopened on Monday as the government formally relaxed coronavirus restrictions that kept them closed for months.
The government eased the lockdown measures despite warnings that it could be too soon to do so. British officials have cited health data that show the rate of infection consistently slowing.
Under updated rules, furniture dealers, auto showrooms and open air markets are now permitted to reopen. Furniture giant IKEA was among those to reopen Monday, as it opened 19 of its stores across Britain.
Long lines of shoppers formed outside IKEA locations. In Warrington, 20 miles east of Liverpool, 1,000 shoppers lined up for the store's first opening in a month.
Stores are reopening with limited hours and distancing restrictions. Some stores are asking customers to come alone, if possible.
British children began returning to schools Monday, which are subject to distancing rules and other restrictions.
The relaxed rules also allow larger gatherings. Groups with as many as six people can meet in public spaces or private gardens, but not in each other's homes.
"These changes mean friends and family can start to meet their loved ones," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week.