With the news filled with pictures of people beaming at the camera, pint in hand, while rain cascades down around a slightly flimsy parasol, it would be easy to believe that life is back to normal. Afterall, the shops are open, cafes offer outdoor seating and with a mask almost now second skin, it’s easy to go through the day forgetting that anything ever changed.

On the 12th of April, ‘personal premises such as hairdressers and nail salons’ were among the businesses allowed to open their doors. Linh Tran, whose parents - Kim and Dan Tran - own ‘Dan Nails’, a nail salon in Dagenham, East London, says that business was initially incredibly brisk.

The shop was already fitted with rigorous hygiene procedures and PPE that they’d had to invest in the first time England emerged from a lockdown. After months of being closed, they were happy to be opening again, and their regular customers were happy to book.

However the initial surge lasted only the first week. The numbers soon slumped, and not even payday - generally the busiest time - brought more customers through their doors. On the 29th of April, there were only three customers, a meagre number compared to those they’d expected pre-Covid.

‘The priority for many people isn’t getting their nails done,’ says Linh, ‘especially with no events like weddings or holidays’. Ostensibly much about life is relatively normal, but businesses like this one are feeling the worst of the persisting abnormalities.

‘People don’t have the luxury now to be spending their money on nails’, Linh continues to explain. With so many peoples’ incomes reduced, they have less money to spend on their nails. According to official statistics, 16% of workers in London have at some point been part of the furlough scheme, receiving 80% of their usual income from the government.

Everyone working at the shop was part of this, and the drop in custom is making the squeeze on finances all the more noticeable.

‘80%. It’s enough to stay alive but they still definitely need to make smart financial decisions,’ Linh says. Of course with so many people affected in the same way, it’s a tricky situation, as so many people feel less able to spend money on the little luxuries they were accustomed to. It will take a while for the economy to return to normal.

But they all believe that the lockdown was a necessary step to take, despite the slightly precarious situation it has left them in. Citing countries like India, and the extremes that the UK had reached when the country entered lockdown in December, Linh does not doubt that, without the multiple lockdowns, there would be many more people now dead.

‘Even though it was very detrimental to business,’ she summarises, ‘for the benefit of everyone else it had to be done’.

Now they, like so many other small businesses, are trying to return to normal. It isn’t easy, but you can support businesses like this in a variety of ways. Why not start by following them on social media (you can find them on instagram @dannails_dagenham), or paying them a visit. After the monotony of months of lockdown, freshly painted nails are certain to brighten your day.