Pubs 'to reopen without 10pm curfew and substantial meal rule'

When pubs reopen they will do so without some of the stringent rules that were in place last time, it has been claimed.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Boris Johnson plans to allow pubs to open again by Easter, with customers able to sit and drink outside.

They will not have to implement a 10pm curfew or the rule that said alcohol could only be served with a ‘substantial meal’.

Outdoor dining would also be allowed in restaurants from March 30 or 31, the paper reported.

The prime minister is expected to set out a ‘roadmap’ for the next steps regarding the lockdown on February 22.

Provided that the current downward trend for new infections, hospital admissions and deaths continues, school pupils are expected to return to in person teaching from March 8.

Also starting then, people will be allowed to meet with one other person for a picnic outdoors, rather than only being allowed to see someone for exercise.

The country will not return to the localised tiers system, with England expected to have a set system of restrictions across the whole country, the paper said.

This morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that he hoped schools would be reopening to all pupils starting from March 8.

Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled the pressure on Boris Johnson to lift all coronavirus restrictions by the end of April.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the ‘tremendous pace’ of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a ‘road-map’ stating when they would be removed.

Yesterday, Mr Johnson was asked if people could be drinking in pub gardens in April, and he told reporters: ‘If you don’t mind I’m going to ask you just wait a little bit longer, give us some more time to look at the data about what’s happening, look at the way the numbers are coming down, study also I think, very importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines – are they working in the way that we hope that they are?

‘Making sure that they’re really helping along with the lockdown to drive down the incidents. That’s the key thing.

‘I’m optimistic, I won’t hide it from you. I’m optimistic, but we have to be cautious.’

But Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said: ‘It’s premature [to talk about reopening pubs] because we don’t know what the state of cases will be in the country at that point in time.

‘It may be that the cases are low and that we have regained control because we are now managing to keep the case numbers down and our immunisation levels have been sufficiently high to have a majority of the vulnerable population immunised and therefore protected,’ he said.

Dr Pankhania, who has widespread experience of advising on national communicable disease control action plans at national and international level, added: ‘What the executives of pubs etc etc need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one.

‘And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.

‘It is better to get it right than to prematurely bow to pressure and open up when you’re not ready to open up.’

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