Steve Baker: Pubs and restaurants should be open by Easter
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Under ministerial plans, pub gardens could be reopened by Easter but drinkers may have to wait until May for a full reopening of the hospitality sector. The Prime Minister has promised a “cautious but irreversible” approach to easing the third national shutdown, while lockdown-sceptical Tory MPs pile pressure on him for a swift reopening.
Speaking on Monday, Wetherspoons chairman Mr Martin said the company has registered more than 50 million customer visits to its pubs, using the Test and Trace system.
He claimed not a single coronavirus outbreak, as defined by the health authorities, had been declared.
He said the company’s data “clearly demonstrates” that pubs and restaurants are not Covid hotspots.
Mr Martin wants to see pubs reopen by Good Friday, which falls on April 2, when non-essential shops are expected to welcome back shoppers.
Pointing to the information collected by his group, he said: “The Government knows this is correct, since it has access to Test and Trace information.
“Yet the Government has ignored this information and has even banned golf – the ultimate social distancing sport.”
He added: “Surely it is possible for the hospitality industry to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops, now that a vaccine exists, on the basis of the social distancing and hygiene regulations.”
So far more than 15 million people in the UK have received the first dose of the Covid vaccine.
Mr Martin said the closure of hospitality venues has hit Government finances hard and said it would be better to allow restaurants, bars and hotels to throw open their doors once again.
He said: “Many people have correctly pointed out that the three lockdowns of the last year have been a disaster for the hospitality, retail, arts and entertainment industries, but our calculations show that they have been an even bigger disaster for public finances.
“The taxes paid by Wetherspoon are mirrored by thousands of companies which have been annihilated by lockdowns.
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“As a result, government finances have been annihilated even more.”
Mr Johnson will next Monday set out the full road map from the national lockdown.
He said he would give target dates for restrictions to be rolled back but warned “we won’t hesitate” to delay plans if infection rates necessitate.
March 8 has been earmarked as the date on which schools can start reopening.
Ministers are expected to opt for a staggered approach and delay the reopening of secondary schools by one week.
The Government has said bringing children back into classrooms to resume in-person studies remains their top priority.
The Prime Minister said there is an increased chance of new and concerning variants of Covid emerging if infections remain high.
Speaking during a visit to Orpington Health and Wellbeing Centre in southeast London on Monday, he said: “When you have a large level of circulation, when you’ve got a lot of disease,
invariably the vulnerable suffer so that’s why we want to drive it right down, keep it right down.”
Last week Government statistics suggested the R number – the average number of infections produced by a Covid positive person – could be below one for the first time since July.
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