Disappointment for pub industry as PM says they cannot open until after Easter

The pub industry was left flat this afternoon as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced pubs will not fully open until at least May 17 – but did approve takeaway beers.

Leaders in the sector had hoped for the PM to inject some fizz into bars and drinking venues and open them up by Easter after the success of the UK’s huge vaccination programme. 

But they were left disappointed by the 3.30pm announcement, which left no doubt only outdoor drinks or takeaway would be permitted from April 12 at the earliest.

It will be over a full month later on May 17 before the government will even consider relaxing restrictions on indoor hospitality.  

Earlier Tory MPs and pub industry leaders had demanded Mr Johnson move quicker to open venues before Easter.

The COVID Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers were already unsatisfied with details of the PM’s roadmap to recovery briefed over the weekend.

At least 40 MPs led by the CRG’s Mark Harper and Steve Baker told him to speed up the process.

And it came as one of the country’s biggest pub chains insisted they were ready to open quicker, pointing to the secure serving methods that succeeded last year.

Marstons chief executive Ralph Findlay stressed ‘It’s not as if we haven’t done this before’.

The British Beer and Pub Association had also piled pressure on the PM to deliver and save the currently flat drinks industry.  

Marstons CEO Ralph Findlay had said reopening should happen ‘sooner rather than later’

People being allowed into pubs is predicted for May at the earliest, but could happen sooner

Bar staff pack away chairs and tables after pubs were forced to stop selling alcohol

The CRG’s Mark Harper said on Sunday the progress of the vaccine meant hospitality should reopen quicker.

He said: ‘It therefore makes sense to enable pubs and restaurants to open for Easter — where they can be Covid-secure — to avoid them going to the wall and to protect jobs.

‘Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April there is no justification for any domestic legal restrictions to remain.’

Marstons, which operate 1,700 pubs in the UK, said things needed to happen sooner rather than later.

CEO Ralph Findlay told Radio 4: ‘In terms of expectations I just work with the basis we’ve been closed for nine months out of the previous 12 , what’s really important to me is that we get some degree of positivity and a route to seeing these restrictions lifted so we can come out with some sort of reasonable timescale.

‘I don’t think I could put a date on that but I do think the case is made for getting this sector up and running and open again sooner rather than later.

Boris Johnson takes the dog for a run ahead of unveiling his roadmap to unlocking the UK

Outdoor drinking is possible for April, according to some reports ahead of the roadmap reveal

Currently all pubs and restaurants are closed to customers, in a huge drain on the sector

‘It’s important to recognise that for many businesses and many hospitality businesses in particular operating with restrictions is very difficult.

‘It’s quite hard to make profit and economically have businesses viable with the kind of restrictions we have been operating under.

‘I would just remind you, we did open last year, it’s not as if we haven’t done this before – we opened on July 4 last year we did well. 

‘Clearly people are cautious, they have a degree of concern, but if you look back at what happened last year actually we opened July, August and September, for much of that period infections did not increase in any scale.’

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘With the vaccine rollout continuing apace, now is the time to commit to reopening our pubs in a commercially viable way so that thousands of communities and businesses up and down the country can begin to emerge from this crisis.’

Mr Johnson’s plans for easing lockdown have been bolstered by the latest data whihc shows Covid-19 infection rates have continued to drop, with 9,834 more cases reported – a fall of 10 per cent on last week – while the 215 new daily deaths brought Britain’s total up to 120,580

The delay in opening is believed to be to buy time for a study into the effect of the return to school on the R number.

Industry body UK Hospitality, which estimates the sector lost £72 billion in revenue last year and more than one million jobs, last week presented the Government with a ten-point plan to re-open the industry from April 1.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘There is no valid reason for hospitality to be at the back of the queue as data shows hospitality venues are very low risk due to the exceptional investment that businesses have made in creating safe and Covid-secure environments.’

Model-turned-publican Jodie Kidd, who runs The Half Moon in Kirdford, West Sussex, has spent months preparing to reopen. 

She has put up a 22-seater marquee filled with olive trees festooned with lights. She told Sky News: ‘We are Covid-safe, we have accommodated all the restrictions, we are good to go.

‘Now we need a date and guidance for when and how we can re-open – we need time to prepare.’

Chef Jack Stein has spent winter deep-cleaning the Cornish Arms in Cornwall’s St Merryn, a pub he owns with his famous father Rick.

‘We’ve given the pub a lick of paint, we’ve just bought a marquee, we’re doing everything we can to maximise our outdoor space,’ he said. ‘We’re raring to go.’

Des Gunewardena, chief executive of the D&D London group that includes former Conran restaurants Bluebird, Quaglino’s and Le Pont de la Tour, said he is planning a re-opening campaign to give his restaurants’ terraces and rooftop courtyards a new look.

Each will be given the theme of a popular holiday destination – with trees, floral displays, live music, cocktail trolleys and alfresco barbecues – to cheer up customers who cannot travel abroad. 

‘It’s like the end of the war – it’s a new start and we will re-open with enthusiasm to look forward. There is a huge demand by customers to get out socialising again,’ he said.

 Expert claims Britain could ALREADY have herd immunity amid huge 82% reduction in Covid infections in just six weeks with 17million vaccinated and one in five carrying antibodies

ByJames Robinson for MailOnline

A leading academic has today said herd immunity could be a factor in the huge drop in Covid cases in the UK, as it was announced more than 17million Britons have now been vaccinated, while 1 in 5 people in England are already said to have coronavirus antibodies.

Infection figures in the UK have tumbled in the past six weeks, falling 82 per cent – from 68,053 new cases reported on January 8, to 12,057 on February 18.

It comes as figures published today show there have been 9,834 new Covid cases – a fall of 10 per cent on last week.

Meanwhile, nearly one in five adults in England – the equivalent of 8.3million people – had Covid antibodies at the beginning of February, a major surveillance study revealed this week. 

A leading academic has today said herd immunity could be a factor in the huge drop in Covid cases in the UK, as it was announced more than 17million Britons have now been vaccinated

The prediction could heap pressure on the Government to end the current lockdown, with Boris Johnson set to outline his road-map for ending restrictions on Monday

A THIRD of all English adults have had a Covid jab boosting hopes of a swift end to lockdown – but Matt Hancock says ‘time needs to be taken’

A third of all adults in England have now been vaccinated against coronavirus, Matt Hancock revealed today – as he insisted that the lifting of the lockdown must be done carefully.

The Health Secretary revealed that one-in-three people over 16 had now been given on of the life-saving jabs, a boost to the country ahead of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown that will be unveiled tomorrow.

Mr Hancock confirmed this morning that every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July.

The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.

Mr Hancock also confirmed that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.

But he warned that the Government would take its time lifting the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was ‘right to be cautious’ with 20,000 people still in hospital.

Speaking to Times Radio today he said coronavirus restrictions will be eased with ‘weeks between the steps’, suggesting that after schools reopen on March 8 there may be few other changes before April.

Mr Hancock also said social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings is likely to remain for a while.

Asked earlier bout the speed of the lockdown lifting, he told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘It is right to be cautious, it is incredibly important. There are still almost 20,000 people in the hospital with Covid right now. Almost 20,000.

‘The vaccination programme whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we also need to get the second jab to everybody.

‘So we have got time that needs to be taken to get this right, the PM will set out the roadmap tomorrow and he will set out the full details, taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.’

And today it was announced more than 17million of Britain’s most vulnerable residents had received their first dose of the Covid vaccine since the UK’s jab rollout began.

One leading epidemiologist, who asked not to be named having previously suffered abuse for airing their views on the effectiveness of lockdown, said they believed more than 50 per cent of the UK could now have some protection against the virus. 

And the professor said the huge drop in recent infection figures could be a result of the UK reaching its herd immunity threshold – where the number of people with protection against the virus outweighs its ability to spread among the population.

The prediction could heap pressure on the Government to end the current lockdown, with Boris Johnson set to outline his road-map for ending restrictions on Monday.

And it follows similar suggestions in America, where one top doctor told the Wall Street Journal this week that the US could achieve herd immunity ‘by April’. 

Speaking to MailOnline, the academic said: ‘It’s a strong possibility that we could already have it (herd immunity), not just in the UK.

‘It is possible that is what is having an impact. With the vaccine, we do not have the data yet, apart from some data from AstraZeneca, to show if it stops transmission.

‘The vaccine, at the moment it seems, is protecting people from going to hospital and that’s what you need.

On the possible impact of lockdown, the professor said: ‘I could create a model which shows that this is down to lockdown or I can create one which says it is down to herd immunity.

‘The likelihood is it is could be down to both. 

‘But the Government is continuing its messaging which is to stay in lockdown, which causes other problems and could impact on herd immunity.’

Herd immunity, the professor said, would not stop Covid completely because the virus is ‘here to stay’.

But they said it would keep Covid-19 at a manageable level within the community – like with other forms of coronavirus and the flu. 

‘That’s the destination. If we can get to a place where there are no deaths and we are living with Covid-19, which is what we do with other diseases and with other coronavirus forms which people have not heard of – for exactly that reason,’ the professor added. 

It comes as a US doctor claimed that America will have ‘herd immunity by April’.

Dr Marty Makary, from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, said he believes the US could be just months away from herd immunity.

And, writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial, the top doctor said America was ‘racing toward an extremely low level of infection’.

He believes when the number of Americans vaccinated is combined with the number of people who may already have been infected, that the number of people with some form of Covid immunity is high. 

‘At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life,’ he wrote in Wall Street Journal last week.  

His comments come after cases in the US tumbled by 77 per cent over the past six weeks. The country is not in a nationwide lockdown, with states and cities setting their own Covid rules.

However many areas, including densely populated New York, have lifted restrictions, with bars and restaurants open, while states such as Delaware are allowing indoor activities of up to 50 people to take place.

In the UK, which has been in lockdown since early January, infection figures have fallen by 82 per cent in the last six weeks – from 68,053 new cases reported on January 8, to just 2,057 on February 18. 

The percentage of the population who have already had Covid-19 is also similar between the UK and the US.

More than 4million people in the UK have tested positive for Covid since the pandemic began – around 7 per cent of the UK’s population.

In America, more than 28million Americans have tested positive – around 8.5 per cent of the overall population. 

In terms of vaccination rollouts, the UK is further ahead than the US in terms of percentage of the population vaccinated.

Britain has already vaccinated more than 17.2million of its most vulnerable residents since December – more than a quarter of the population.

The US has vaccinated around 61million of its 328million residents, around 18.9 per cent of the population. 

Across the globe cases fell by 16 per cent last week and have been in decline for over a month. 

World Health Organization (WHO) figures show the number of new Covid cases fell by 16 per cent worldwide last week to 2.7million. 


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