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Reopening: Prime minister 'must stick' to indoor dining dates

·3 min read
Chef cooking wearing face mask.
Chef cooking wearing face mask.

The UK's biggest hospitality firms have signed a letter urging the prime minister to "stick" with England's roadmap to reopen the economy.

The letter in the Sunday Telegraph, signed by 38 bosses, said two-thirds of venues "couldn't open outdoors from 12 April, and none is breaking even".

Signatories urged the government to allow indoor dining to go ahead from 17 May in England.

The letter also warned against the introduction of vaccine "passports".

A government spokesperson said: "We cannot be complacent or lose sight of the risks this virus poses."

Chief executives of Mitchells & Butlers, Fuller's, Young's, JD Wetherspoon, Pizza Hut and Alton Towers owner Merlin signed the letter, which said: "We must be driven by data not dates.

"The data say it is safe to confirm now the reopening of indoor hospitality on 17 May and the lifting of all social-distancing restrictions on hospitality on 21 June," it added.

"This is vital as government support for hospitality tapers away then, and without it many businesses will be unviable."

However, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England said that two to three weeks of data was needed before the impact of outdoor service in England from 12 April could be determined.

"As we release restrictions and as people start moving around again, transmission can occur. So people still need to take precautions as they do that," she said.

She added: "We really hope the next step can take place as planned."

According to data from CGA and AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor, only 23% of English venues have been able to open for outside trade.

Vaccine 'passports'

Executives at the Wahaca restaurant chain and Burger King were among the signatories who said that vaccine passports cannot be used as an excuse to "derail" the earliest possible date for lifting of all social distancing measures in June.

The government said on Saturday it is reviewing whether to use vaccine certificates and "no decisions have been taken".

Government ministers have previously said that certificates would allow people to show if they have been vaccinated, had a negative test or had natural immunity from a confirmed infection in the previous six months.

It comes after local government secretary Robert Jenrick called on council leaders in England to work with pubs, cafes and restaurants trying to reopen safely.

Mr Jenrick wrote to councils on Thursday, warning them against applying Covid-19 rules "disproportionately" and threatening to punish pubs for failing to ensure social distancing outside.

"It is in the public interest that local residents can socialise in a licensed and controlled environment outside, where Covid-19 risks are lower," he wrote.

On Saturday, the UK recorded 2,206 new Covid cases and 35 deaths, according to the latest government figures.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business said: "We are continuing to make good progress in tackling the virus, with case rates and hospitalisations down and more than 42 million vaccine doses have been administered.

But they said people must not be "complacent" about coronavirus.

They added: "That is why we must continue to take a cautious and irreversible approach to reopening and monitor the data ahead of each step of the roadmap."

They also pointed to the Pubs Restart Scheme, offered as part of a package to help hospitality firms reopen.