Pubs could stay closed until July as lockdown powers quietly extended

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops could remain closed until July this year after the Government quietly extended their lockdown powers.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020, brought in during July last year, were due to expire last week. The regulations allow the Government to close certain premises, such as those in the hospitality and leisure industries, to stop the spread of Covid.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now given a new expiry date of July 17, as they were renewed as part of the latest lockdown review, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Mark Harper, who chairs Coronavirus Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said the extension would be of concern to those whose businesses have been blighted by the pandemic.

Under England’s current lockdown, pubs, restaurants and cafes can only serve takeaways, while salons, gyms, leisure centres and non-essential shops have closed.

Mr Harper, who campaigns against the restrictions, said: ‘Given the limited time allowed for debate this change in the law was little noticed. Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected by March 8, assuming the Government hits the February 15 deadline, the Government must start easing the restrictions.

‘Vaccinations will of course bring immunity from Covid, but they must bring immunity from lockdowns and restrictions too.’

Tory MP Sir Charles Walker also questioned by the regulations needed to be extended, and said the new July deadline would ’cause many great concern’.

He went on: ‘The hope has to be that with the successful rollout of the vaccine, this summer date is only provisional with a spring opening being the preferred option.’

A source from the Department for Health said MPs had voted for extended restrictions at the start of January. They went on: ‘The regulations that encompass the measures – including local authority powers – automatically expire after six months.

‘As we are currently in a national lockdown it was necessary to renew the regulations, which means they are automatically extended for another six months. However, these measures are still subject to the statuary review point.’

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