Britons longing for a drink in a pub garden this summer could be given a major boost, with a government minister today revealing that plans are being drawn up to open as early as July.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has said he is hopeful pubs will be able to reopen this summer – subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move.
However, strict social distancing measures would also need to be implemented before pubs return, Mr Eustice told MPs.
He said the Government was ‘already working with the hospitality and pub sector to identify what social distancing measures they might be able to put in place to make that work properly’.
Britons longing for a drink in a pub garden this summer could be given a major boost, with a government minister today revealing that plans are being drawn up to open as early as July. Pictured: The Foresters pub in Farnham
Environment Secretary George Eustice has said he is hopeful pubs will be able to reopen this summer – subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move. Pictured: The Beech House pub in Amersham-on-the-Hill in Buckinghamshire
Mr Eustice (pictured) said the Government was ‘already working with the hospitality and pub sector to identify what social distancing measures they might be able to put in place to make that work properly’
Mr Eustice said: ‘As the Prime Minister has outlined, we intend that the hospitality sector, including pubs, would be able to tentatively start gradually opening hopefully during the month of July – subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move.’
The move will be a welcome by thirsty punters, as well as tens of thousands of pub staff who have been furloughed since the government introduced its coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
It also comes after the boss of Britain’s largest pub chain, Wetherspoons, last month said he wants to start re-opening its pubs and hotels ‘in or around June’.
Chairman Tim Martin was forced to close all 900 pubs and furlough 40,000 workers before Britain went on lockdown.
He was among the last on the High Street to shut up shop, with drinkers downing their final pints on March 20 – just three days before a shutdown was imposed by law.
Tim Martin (pictured right with Boris Johnson) boss of Britain’s largest pub chain, Wetherspoons, last month said he wants to start re-opening its pubs and hotels ‘in or around June
Chairman Tim Martin was forced to close all 900 pubs and furlough 40,000 workers before Britain went on lockdown. Pictured: The Postal Order in Crystal Palace in south London
Mr Martin had hoped he could get away with introducing social distancing in his pubs, with a ‘regulars only’ policy in some.
Last month, Public Health England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam today appeared to dash hopes of pubs re-opening anytime soon.
Asked about the re-opening of pubs, beaches and garden centres, he told the Downing Street press conference: ‘At various different points they might involve the congregation of individuals and one has to be very painstaking and careful about thinking through some of these before we make the wrong move to relax measures.
Britain facing ‘alarming shortfall’ in number of fruit-pickers
Just a third of the usual European fruit-picking workforce will be available to work in the UK this year, the government has admitted today.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the British work-force would need to ‘step-up’ to fill the gaps.
Mr Eustice replied: ‘We estimate that probably only about a third of the usual East European workforce that would come to work on our farms is either here or in some cases has continued to come.
‘That means that this year we will need a British workforce to step up and assist in getting the harvest in this year and we’re very encouraged by results so far.’
Shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner criticised the government in Parliament today.
He said: ‘The foolish dismantling of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, now made worse by the Covid crisis, means we’re facing an alarming shortfall in the experienced 70,000 people needed to pick our crops.’
‘I think we have to be extremely surefooted and extremely painstaking about this.
‘This virus will absolutely come back … this is with us for quite some time, potentially for as long as until we get a vaccine.
‘So from that perspective we have to be really careful and really surefooted and I’m just not going to suggest for a moment that any of this should be rushed.’
However the government has continued to push for a July 4 date for the reopening of businesses including pubs, cinemas and hotels could reopen as soon as July 4 if they meet ‘Covid secure’ regulations.
In a document, published earlier this month, the Government set out detailed lockdown exit plans.
Step three of the plan, beginning no earlier than July 4, says the Government hopes to reopen some businesses that were required to close.
All businesses must meet the ‘Covid secure’ guidelines to be allowed to reopen.
If venues are crowded and cannot enforce social distancing safely, they will not be allowed to reopen, or will reopen only in part.
The report says: ‘Nevertheless the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.’
Outdoor spaces and activities could open earlier than indoor venues, as ‘evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors’.
But indoor public spaces, nightclubs and leisure centres may not be allowed to open until much later due to risks of close contact.
Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and ticketed outdoor leisure venues will also remain closed.
Cultural and sporting events will take place behind closed doors for broadcast next month, but stadiums will remain closed to the public to stop large-scale social contact.