PEOPLE in Herefordshire flocked back to shops, pubs and cafes as lockdown restrictions eased in England, figures show.

Location data from Google reveals that non-essential retail and recreation venues were much busier on April 17, than the previous Saturday – though they were still far from reaching pre-pandemic levels.

The British Retail Consortium said it hopes that with Covid-19 cases dropping, shoppers will feel more confident heading out.

Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in their daily lives.

The figures show average activity in Herefordshire's hospitality venues and non-essential shops was 24% lower last Saturday than pre-pandemic levels, recorded during a five-week period early in 2020.

But that was higher than on Saturday April 10, when activity was 55% below normal.

It reflected the picture across the UK, where visits to shops and food establishments were 37% lower than before the pandemic last Saturday. The previous week's activity was 57% below pre-pandemic levels.

The data reflects activity across the whole of the UK, though non-essential shops only re-opened in England and Wales, and hospitality venues only in England, with restrictions.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said: “While footfall at shopping destinations was significantly up in the first week of reopening, compared to the week prior, it still remains below pre-pandemic levels.

"Monday was by far the best day for retailers in England and Wales, as the novelty of shopping at non-essential stores helped footfall to its highest levels in months."

Pubs, cafes and restaurants in England are currently only allowed to seat customers outdoors, meaning re-opening last Monday was unviable or not possible for many businesses.

The restrictions are due to be reviewed soon and it is hoped that venues will be able to welcome guests indoors from May 17.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "Only when all our pubs can fully re-open as normal will they be viable businesses and in the green once more."

The figures also show that more people used public transport.

Activity across Herefordshire's transport hubs was 29% below pre-pandemic levels, compared to 48% down the week before.