In Brief

Pubs ‘to stay shut until May’ under three-stage lockdown easing plan

Hospitality bosses prepare for further misery as new data shows sector lost £200m a day in 2020

Pubs will be closed until at least May under a three-step lockdown easing plan being prepared by the government, according to insiders.

Boris Johnson yesterday announced plans to reopen schools in March as part of a “gradual” lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. The prime minister told the Commons that a full “roadmap” outlining the plan to “begin steadily to reclaim our lives” would be published in mid-February.

However, a “senior government source” told The Telegraph that officials have already drawn up a schedule under which the return to schools would be following by the reopening of non-essential shops in April, with pubs and restaurants then beginning to welcome back customers the following month. 

 This “staggered approach” is the result of concerns that the return of schools could increase the ‘R’ rate of virus reproduction, with the month-long gap before the next phase intended to allow time to assess the impact of pupils returning, the insider said.

Johnson warned yesterday that the lifting of restrictions will depend on “the continued success of the vaccination programme”, as well as the “capacity of the NHS” and the rate at Covid cases and related deaths in the UK. 

But reopening schools was a “national priority”, he added.

Despite that pledge, the PM resisted pleas by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to send pupils back after the February half-term, The Times reports. A source told the paper that “Gavin was pushing very hard” for the earlier return but was overruled by his boss during a meeting yesterday morning of the government’s Covid-19 operations committee. 

Johnson’s reported schedule for the lockdown easing will also cause dismay in the hospitality sector.

The latest UKHospitality and CGA Quarterly Tracker shows that hospitality sales plunged from £133bn in 2019 to just under £62bn last year - equivalent to a loss of £8m an hour, or almost £200m a day.

Industry chiefs described the figures as “devastating”.

The publication of the data comes a week after the latest Market Recovery Monitor from consultancies CGA and AlixPartners revealed that 6,000 licensed premises in Britain shut their doors permanently in 2020 - almost triple the number of closures in the previous year.

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