Boozy Brits are refusing to let social distancing measures come between them and their pints as millions of people have been carrying on drinking in virtual pubs online after bars were shut.
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the UK, Brits are shunning The Winchester and are instead heading home to have a nice cold pint and wait for this all to blow over.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that all pubs must close "as soon as they reasonably can" and must not open on Saturday.
But many punters watched the announcement from the comfort of their local boozers.
And hundreds of Brits defied government calls for social distancing ahead of the nationwide closure of pubs, restaurants, shops, nightclubs and theatres on Friday night.
Hundreds of stubborn Brits took to the streets for "one last night of freedom" before pub-goers are forced to give up their social habits for the greater good of Public Health.
And now millions are expected to join the virtual pub phenomenon as at-home drinkers knock back pints in front of their phones' video-conferencing apps showing friends doing the same.
Jokers even gave their cyber-boozers – run on apps such as Zoom – names including The Stay Inn and The Wuhan Arms.
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Britain's top psychologist Sir Cary Cooper backed living room booze-ups to help plug the gap left by pubs closing, saying social connection would boost mental health.
At-home beer consumption is set to almost double from 60 million pints a week to up to 100 million a week after pubs shut.
Brits drink around 60m pints at home and 65m in the pub in an average week, British Beer and Pub Association supermarket and off-licence sales data indicated, but pints drunk at home will soar after the pub shutdown, retail insiders say.
Bath University's student union is running virtual pub quizzes for 500 people.
Locals' pub The Alexandra in Wimbledon, south London, will run its weekly quiz online.
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Rhidian Bramley tweeted: “Went down the virtual pub last night. Turned out more it was fun than the real thing – and we saved the taxi fares home.”
Katy Montgomerie tweeted: “My first virtual pub session with a load of friends was so fun. I really recommend if you're feeling down.”
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research, said: “Home drinking is doing well, with a bigger share of pubs' drinking moving to home drinking.
“Panic-buying means some people have a lot of alcohol at home.”
Professor Sir Cary Cooper, knighted for services to social science, president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and professor of organisational psychology at Manchester Business School, said: “Brits love the social connection of going to the pub – but we can still get that connection in a virtual pub. It's still face-to-face.
“The best way to boost your spirits now is to talk to someone, and that can be done face-to-face over the internet while having a drink.
“This crisis is actually bringing communities together in new ways. In the long run, it will have positive effects on society.”
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