Boris Johnson hints pubs will be last thing to open as lockdown restrictions eased

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
CWMBRAN, WALES – FEBRUARY 17: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with health worker Wendy Warren during a visit to the vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium on February 17, 2021 in Cwmbran, Wales. The Prime Minister visited the vaccination centre to see the progress of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out in Wales. During the visit he explained that the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown would be “based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach”. (Photo by Geoff Caddick – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson speaks to a health worker during a visit to a vaccination centre in Cwmbran, south Wales. (Getty)

Boris Johnson has suggested that pubs may be the last thing to open as lockdown restrictions are eased.

On Wednesday, the prime minister said opening up England would be done in “stages”, noting that hospitality was one of the last things to return after the first lockdown.

He is due to announce his plan to ease restrictions on Monday after reviewing data this week.

Speaking from a mass vaccination centre in Cwmbran, south Wales, Johnson said: “I certainly think that we need to go in stages. We need to go cautiously.

“You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality."

Watch: Boris Johnson warns of cautious approach to easing lockdown

The PM's comments came after The Telegraph reported the country was unlikely to be opened up significantly until daily coronavirus cases fell to a few hundred.

They are currently at more than 10,000.

Johnson added: "I know there’s a lot of understandable speculation in the papers and people coming up with theories about what we’re going to do, what we’re going to say, and about the rates of infection, and so on.

“I would just advise everybody just wait, we’ll try and say as much as we can on that.”

The prime minister is under pressure from the public and many of his own MPs to outline his plan for taking England out of its third national lockdown.

The government will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as it prepares its plan to reduce restrictions.

According to the latest figures released on Monday, the UK’s COVID-19 infection rate is at its lowest since October, while the government reached its mid-February target of vaccinating 15 million people across the top four priority groups.

Ministers have said the reopening of schools in England on 8 March remains their priority, but reports have suggested the return may be staggered, with secondary schools going back a week later.

Johnson said no decisions have been made on whether year groups across schools in England will return together or whether primaries and secondaries could be staggered.

Professor Neil Ferguson, who advises the government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said modelling suggests “there probably is leeway to reopen all schools” from 8 March but acknowledged there will be “slightly more of a risk” of a rise in cases than if just primary schools were reopened.

After schools, the next areas of easing will be non-essential shops and the rules on outdoor recreation and socialising.

Paul Silcock, landlord and co-owner of The Gardeners Arms public house, poses for a photograph behind the bar, in Oxford on January 29, 2021. - The faded sign of The Lamb & Flag swung in the wind as staff removed barrels from one of Oxford's oldest pubs, which has closed permanently during the coronavirus lockdown. As the 16th-century inn wound up its operations, Oxford landlords warned of the
Paul Silcock, landlord and co-owner of The Gardeners Arms public house. (Getty)

Media reports have suggested various reopening dates for hospitality, with optimistic suggestions varying from Easter weekend to May.

One caveat is that the initial reopening may be for outdoors rather than indoors.

The prime minister said his road map out of lockdown will be done in a way that ensures it is “irreversible”.

Read more:

Schools in Scotland back from Monday in first easing of COVID lockdown

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Steve Paterson, professor of genetics at Liverpool University, has warned against lifting lockdown too soon and said COVID-19 infections needed to be in the low thousands before restrictions could be safely eased.

He told Sky News: "The virus doesn't care that we want to meet our friends. It's going to find new ways to transmit or evade immunity.

"To give public health and the genome sequencing a chance to work out where the virus is mutating and where new variants are starting to spread, we really need that headroom of getting cases down before we can take our foot off the brake.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's lockdown