Freedom Day arrived with the majority of Covid restrictions which have governed people’s lives for over a year ending at one minute past midnight on Monday.

Social distancing, wearing face masks, limits on how many people can meet and capacity rules are no longer legal requirements.

Instead, people will have to take personal responsibility for minimising the spread of Covid.

But with cases continuing to soar and renewed warnings about the pressure on the NHS, the Government has appealed to people to exercise caution.

On July 18 there were 77 new cases reported in West Oxfordshire, bringing the total number of cases in the district to 5,332.

Local businesses are now facing challenges due to staff shortages triggered by workers having to self-isolate amid what’s been termed a “pingdemic”.

Mark Creed, director of Idlewild hairdressing said: “We’re juggling the team numbers in each salon as track and trace notifications take their toll - we’re currently working at 60 per cent productivity due to self isolation rules.”

And The Fleece on Witney’s Church Green said it was having the same issue as many hospitality businesses.

A spokesperson said: “Luckily we've got our sister pubs and the team have been brilliant in moving around and supporting each other.

“There is a lack of team with a lot of our travellers not returning from Australia, New Zealand and Europe yet but we've held on to all our original team and coming 24th in Best Companies to Work For in the UK has put us in good stead and we're recruiting well.”

Mr Creed said his salons, including two in Oxford, would be “focusing on ‘hair and hygiene’ for the foreseeable future as this pandemic has gone away just yet”.

He said: “Our teams have all expressed a preference to continue to wear masks and keep all of the PPE screenings in-place along with the limits on numbers within the salon.”

He added that as many of the stylists are young they have generally only received their first vaccination.

“Therefore it’s sensible and prudent to do everything we can to stop any further spread of Covid.”

He told staff: “To ‘be on the safe side’ we’re following other retail and service providers in encouraging team members and clients to wear masks whilst in the salon especially when delivering close contact services.

“We all recognise that mask wearing is now a personal choice and encourage everyone to be respectful of each other’s decisions and keep one another safe.”

Cotswold Wildlife Park is encouraging pay desk, retail and catering staff to continue to wear masks if they wish. They will also continue to work behind Perspex screens.

As for visitors, Reggie Heyworth, managing director, said: "After 16 months it is inevitable that some people are still going to be cautious and we must have respect for that. You simply don't know what people have been through and I think it's incumbent on us all to respect each other’s space.

“Above all, we don't want anyone to visit if they are still nervous about being in a busy place. We do, however, feel that with such a spacious and safe outdoors environment, where a family can have a picnic and immerse themselves in the beauty of nature, we do offer the perfect tonic for all, to make up for what we have had to go through."

The Fleece said they had decided “to keep things fairly similar for now”.

“We've had great feedback on our table service and Peach Pubs App so we will continue to encourage ordering that way, however, The Fleece is still a pub so there will be some stools at the bar to sit and enjoy a drink, so there will be bar service but we will be managing it better so there's no queues for a better guest experience.

“We will be keeping the table layout the same for now and the hand sanitizer stations will remain.”

He said his team would be temperature checked daily, complete a fit to work questionnaire and get tested a couple of times a week. They will also continue to wear masks.

The pub, which also has rooms, said they had few concerns about guests bringing Covid to the area.

A spokesman said: “We've had no issues with Covid other than cancellations if someone has tested positive before travelling. Our guests can decide for themselves if they prefer to wear a mask or not.”

We asked on the Witney Gazette Facebook page, are you wearing your mask today? Of 46 comments, almost all said yes.

Nichola Beales: "Yes i won't be stopping to wear a mask yet. I'm currently having to self isolate because I've apparently been close contact with someone positive.

Its scary and still out there. We have to be careful and protect each other."

Denise Dionysia Butler: "As my immunity is compromised and Covid-19 is on the increase especially around West Oxfordshire nothing will change for me."

Rachael Brooks: "Did Covid decide enough is enough last night? It’s rife in West Oxfordshire right now so I’ll keep my mask"

Spencer Hughes-Morris: "Good to see the majority of people have thier head screwed on right"