Boris Johnson sets out plans for reopening on-trade

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the reopening of the hospitality sector will form part of the second stage of the “cautious” four-stage roadmap for easing England’s Covid restrictions.

In a press conference yesterday, it was revealed that the initial reopening of the on-trade will take place on April 12 but this will be limited to outdoor service only. This date will also see the opening of shops, hairdressers, gyms and self-contained holiday accommodation.

On 17 May pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open indoors for two households or a group of six. Cinemas, museums, hotels and sporting events will also reopen on this date.

Each phase of the roadmap will be rolled out in five-week intervals, providing four tests are passed: the continued success of the roll out of the vaccine, evidence that the vaccine is lowering hospital admissions and deaths, an assessment of new Covid variants and low infection rates.

If these strict conditions are met throughout each of the four stages then Covid restrictions could be fully eased by June 21, according to the Government’s strategy.

Johnson has promised further financial support to aid the economy and to help businesses get back on their feet, but details were not forthcoming at yesterday's briefing.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The government has nine days to save thousands of businesses and hundreds and thousands of jobs that simply will not be there without a substantial package of compensation.

"From the start of November, the sector will have been closed for almost 200 days, with just a couple of weeks of heavily restricted trading in December. A major package of financial support is imperative if hospitality is to survive. This delay in reopening will make the job of survival all the more difficult for businesses only just clinging on to existence. It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive.

"Only 40% of hospitality businesses have an outdoor area and, in some cases, this is little more than a table and a couple of chairs. The chancellor has just nine days to save thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that simply will not be there without a substantial package of compensation.

"An extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday must be confirmed along with a targeted extension of the furlough scheme. We must also have an extension of the rent moratorium, with loan repayments and HM Revenue & Customs debt delayed in order to give businesses some breathing room from the ruinous mountain of debt that has built up for too many."

The British Beer & Pub Association added that the latest roadmap reopening plan will cost the industry £1.5 billion.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "Outdoor service only from April 12 will likely mean three-in-five pubs across the UK will remain closed. That's 29,000 pubs still not able to open either because they don't have any outdoor space or simply because they will not be commercially sustainable. It will mean just 17% of our pubs' capacity will open from April. That will cost our sector £1.5 billion. The government must now plug that £1.5 billion hole for our sector with vital support in the Budget next week if thousands of pubs are now to survive.

"The government must also stick to June 21 as the end date for social distancing restrictions.This will increase our pubs' economic viability in being able to make good trade for the rest of the yea rand give the hospitality sector some much needed certainty. Last year we saw almost 2,000 pubs close for good - that's five pubs every day closed forever. We cannot let this happen again in 2021."

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will reveal the plans for Scotland later.

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