England’s Lockdown Will Lift, but Many Pub Doors Will Stay Closed


LONDON — Under fire from critics over the economic and social cost of his coronavirus restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will bring a grueling, second, national lockdown in England to an end next week.

But under a new set of rules announced on Thursday, which divide England into three tiers of restrictions, the access to bars and restaurants will differ drastically from place to place depending on the government’s assessment of the local threat posed by the virus.

And that means the more than 23 million people who live in the most restricted tier still face a ban on one of the nation’s favored activities: a visit to the pub. This ban will not only disappoint patrons but also deprive the beleaguered hospitality sector of critical revenue in the run-up to Christmas, when pubs and restaurants are usually overflowing.

With the holiday season arriving, Mr. Johnson has a difficult balance to strike in trying to tweak the exit from the lockdown in a way that is neither so stringent that many fail to comply, nor so lax that it allows the virus to get out of control.

Opinion polls generally show that Britons support tough measures and prefer to prioritize health over the economy. And the risk to health remains real.

While the daily number of Covid-19 cases is falling and is now at around 17,500, almost 500 deaths were announced in the latest 24-hour period for which data is available.

But the political backlash against the new pub rules was swift as Graham Brady, who chairs the influential 1922 committee of Conservative backbench lawmakers, told the BBC that he would vote against the three-tier plan when it goes to Parliament for approval next week. Previous government restrictions have been approved despite a rebellion of some Tory lawmakers.

“I have severe reservations on so many different levels,” Mr. Brady said. “I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian. I think they have interfered in people’s private and personal lives in a way which is unacceptable.”

In Thursday’s closely watched announcement of post-lockdown rules, the government said it plans to allow areas in two of the three tiers, including London and Liverpool, to permit bars to serve alcohol to customers who order food. Even this relaxation, however, will restrict the ability of many pubs to operate profitably, their owners say.

But throughout huge swathes of the country, including most of its other big cities like Manchester and Birmingham, the government wants tougher restrictions to be in place, with pub and restaurant doors kept firmly shuttered when the national lockdown ends on Dec. 2.

In these highest risk areas, only take out service will be permitted.

“With 99 percent of the country in tiers two or three, this remains lockdown in all but name for nearly all pubs during the most important trading month of the year,” said Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of the pub chain Greene King.

“This puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and places the future of British pubs in even greater doubt for the years ahead,” he said, adding that of the more than 2,300 pubs in his chain in England, just six will be in areas where they can operate relatively normally — in the so-called first tier.

Fewer than one million people in the south of England will live in areas under the lightest curbs where bars and restaurants can operate relatively normally, whereas more than 55 million live in the other two tiers.

But beyond the world of pubs and restaurants, the end of lockdown will make a difference because, even in the worst hit parts of England, stores, gyms, and hairdressers are being allowed to reopen, and religious services, weddings and outdoor sports to restart. Retailers will have a chance to open up during the lucrative Christmas shopping season.

At a news conference Mr. Johnson argued that tough restrictions were vital to control the spread of infections. “If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard won gains and forcing us back into a New Year national lockdown,” he said.

He added that if the government was to keep schools open, as it wants, its options for reducing social contact were limited.



Sahred From Source link World News

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*