Pubs and restaurants might be allowed to reopen after Easter in April but only if they agree not to sell alcohol.
Pubs and restaurants might not fully reopen – with alcohol sales – until May, though takeaway pints will be allowed before then as the lockdown begins to ease.
In response the British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Opening pubs without selling alcohol is not ‘reopening’ pubs at all.”
Boris Johnson has warned that it is “still early days” to start talking about opening up society, as reports suggested pubs could reopen in May.
The Prime Minister has committed to setting out a “road map” later this month for easing restrictions as he faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
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.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group – made up of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, said it would be “almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place at all” by the time the top nine groups had been inoculated.
The former chief whip also asked the Prime Minister to consider getting pupils back into classrooms this month rather than delay until his target date of March 8.
Warned in July
Government scientists warned the PM against reopening schools, universities and relaxing restrictions for Christmas as early as July last year.
The document, prepared by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M-O), warned: “Reopening schools and further education colleges in September is expected to increase transmission because people (including children) will mix more outside of their homes, resulting in great contacts between households…
“Outbreaks will spread back into the local community, particularly those in high schools and colleges.”
On the subject of Christmas it read: “Christmas could result in explosive outbreaks across the country, as people of different ages come into close contact with one another, at a time when almost all social interactions take place indoors.
“Many resources in the health and care system will be low over the Christmas period.”
ICUs ‘still in the thick of it’
A senior medic has warned against easing lockdown measures too soon because hospitals are “still in the thick” of coronavirus infections.
Anthony Gordon, professor of critical care medicine at Imperial College London, said intensive care units were still “full to the rafters” and the public would have to wait longer for “relief”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Prof Gordon said: “I think we’re all hoping that there is relief from all of this, from the lockdowns and so on eventually, but at the moment we are still very much in the thick of it for a little while longer.
“What I’m seeing is that we’re still extremely busy. We’ve expanded into these surge ICUs and they are still fully open and full with patients.”