Covid: Pubs and restaurants could reopen in April amid lockdown easing but alcohol could be banned, reports suggest
Video report by ITV News Correspondent David Wood
Pubs and restaurants may be allowed to reopen in April so long as they do not serve alcohol, reports suggest.
Other options thought to be under consideration by the government include keeping pubs shut until May but allowing them to serve takeaway pints from April.
No official dates have been given over the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, with Boris Johnson previously saying England's lockdown will remain in place until at least March 8 when it is thought schools may be allowed to open.
The prime minister has also said he will unveil a "roadmap" out of the coronavirus lockdown on February 22, as he faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
Despite the reports of hospitality venues being allowed to open in the spring, Mr Johnson has warned that it is “still early days” to start talking about opening up society.
Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the vaccine programme planned to reach all those aged 50 and over, as well as adults aged 16-65 in an at-risk group, by May.
Who are the nine priority groups?
1 - Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers (800,000 people)
2 - Those aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers (a total of 7.1 million people in this group: 3.3m over 80s, 2.4m healthcare workers, 1.4m social care workers)
3 - Those aged 75 and over (2.3 million)
4 - Those aged 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (3.2 million)
5 - Those aged 65 and over (2.9 million)
6 - All individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality (7.3 million)
7 - Those aged 60 and over (1.8 million)
8 - Those aged 55 years and over (2.4 million)
9 - Those aged 50 years of age and over (2.8 million)
Once these top nine groups have been inoculated, it would be “almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place at all”, lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs are arguing.
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group, has also asked the PM to consider getting pupils back into classrooms in England this month, rather than delay until his target date of March 8.
The devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland have both announced that some primary schools year groups will return by February 22.
In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, Mr Johnson reiterated his promise to announce a “steady programme for beginning to unlock” in just over two weeks’ time, but warned it was “still early days” and urged the public to continue following lockdown rules.
He said: “I want to stress that it is still early days and we have rates of infection in this country (that are) still very, very high and (have) more people – almost twice as many people – in our hospitals with Covid now than there were back at the peak in April.”
The Sun reported that ministers are preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April before fully reopening in May.
Restrictions such as the 10pm curfew will be scrapped to ease confusion, the paper suggested.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph said the prospect of dry pubs was being discussed as an option to allow bars to open their doors in April.
However, a senior government source was dismissive about the idea, telling the PA news agency: “We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze. What would be the point of that?”
All UK adults over 50 should receive Covid vaccine by May, government says
As well as differing reports about when and how the hospitality sector could start up again, there was confusion over whether the government would provide “vaccine passports” to allow those who had received both jabs to travel abroad for their holidays in the summer.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the government would work with other countries to “help facilitate” coronavirus immunity passports if they are required by destinations abroad.
But both Number 10 and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the concept was not currently being considered, although Mr Hancock said it would be kept “under review”.
In a sign that the current restrictions are working, the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK fell to between 0.7 and 1, according to the latest government figures – down from between 0.7 and 1.1 last week.
It has been suggested that, with falling case numbers, lockdown easing could pave the way for outdoor team and individual sports to resume, as well as outdoor gatherings, within weeks of schools returning in March.
Government figures showed that more than 10.9 million first doses of the vaccines have been administered, as of Friday.
However, a further 1,014 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, and there were another 19,114 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
UK death toll increase by 828 as more than 18,000 new cases confirmed
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