Ministers have been warned that clamping harsh restrictions on pubs and restaurants next month would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for thousands of venues and trigger a jobs bloodbath.
The Prime Minister is preparing to tack back to a strategy of carving the country up into three ‘alert levels’, depending on the prevalence of Covid-19 in the region, when the national lockdown ends in nine days.
Although the 10pm curfew will be scrapped, ministers are expected to usher in tougher curbs; in Tier 2, only pubs serving meals will be allowed to open, and in Tier 3 they can only serve takeaways.
MailOnline spoke to landlords crying out for looser restrictions to breathe life back into Britain’s hard-hit hospitality trade.
A particular blow is expected to be dealt to wet-led pubs which in Tier 2 will be forced to serve food if they are to open.
Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March.
He said: ‘I only have a tiny kitchen and most customers come here to drink, not eat. It changes my entire business which relies on drinks.’
He added: ‘I haven’t been taking any money personally since march. I’ve been living off my savings, and my wife also works.
‘The pub’s been generating a loss and now we’re faced with the prospect of having to open with food, so out of sheer desperation I’m going to try to open because I’ve got to do something to get out of this awful situation.’
Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March
Peter Tiley, landlord of The Salutation Inn, Gloucestershire, a former winner of National Pub of the Year, said he would not be able to open if forced to serve a meal
In one of the biggest days so far in the coronavirus saga:
- The Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19, preliminary results revealed;
- Ministers are proposing a major testing scheme to prevent the need for self-isolation when people have come into contact with infected individuals, in an attempt to win over rebels on the Conservative backbenches;
- In a boost for the PM, Tory rebel ringleader Steve Baker this morning said he was ‘reassured’ by the government’s new plan;
- The respected IFS think-tank has suggested tax rises might not happen until 2025 after the next election.
Peter Tiley, landlord of The Salutation Inn, Gloucestershire, a former winner of National Pub of the Year, said he would not be able to open if forced to serve a meal.
He told MailOnline: ‘I’m gutted. I think it’s a real slap in the face for community wet-led pubs. Neither of my pubs serve food and they’re deliberately designed that way so people can come in, for a chat, without feeling like they’re imposing on a restaurant.’
Mr Tiley said that pubs have been ‘sacrificial lambs’ throughout the pandemic and is desperate to open to claw back some earnings in the vital winter trading window.
He said he’d poured thousands of pounds into Covid-proofing the pub as well as buying outdoor equipment so customers can sit outside.
‘I don’t know how much longer it can continue,’ he said.
Dawn Hopkins (left), owner of the Rose Inn in Norwich, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a wet-led pub but we do serve pizzas. But having to serve a meal with decimate trade’
In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before
Oxford jab ‘up to 90% effective’ and UK has 100m doses on order
The Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19, preliminary results have revealed today.
The trials found that the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. This drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.
The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, Oxford University/AstraZeneca said.
The life-saving jab, costing between £2 and £4 each, is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has ordered 100million doses.
The Prime Minister tweeted today: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at @UniofOxford & @AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.’
Dawn Hopkins, owner of the Rose Inn in Norwich, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a wet-led pub but we do serve pizzas. But having to serve a meal with decimate trade.
‘The cheapest pizza is £9.50, which customers will have to spend before they have a drink. It will be quite devastating to my trade as people can’t just pop in to have a drink. People can still buy alcohol at the shop, but what people miss is the sociability of a pub.
‘It’s very worrying at the moment. We need to order beer, get staff in etc.
Kate Nicholls, head of UK Hospitality, told MailOnline: ‘It is vital that lockdown is ended for hospitality as well as other parts of the economy – we cannot pay the highest price in terms of our viability to allow shops and gyms to reopen.
‘The previous Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions had a devastating impact on jobs and livelihoods with three in four businesses saying that they would be unviable operating under those conditions for the next three months.
‘It would unacceptable if lockdown ended only in name for hospitality, jeopardising a million jobs.’
She added that a quarter of profits are earned in the ‘critical’ December trading period and called on the Government to unlock the hospitality sector to tap into these profits.
One pub chain chief even forecast 94 per cent of bars in the harshest Tier 3 would be out of business by March under the measures.
William Lees-Jones, managing director of brewery and pub chain JW Lees, which has 150 branches across the UK, believed tougher curbs would be a hammer blow to the pubs, especially those in the harshest Tier 3.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘At the moment, we’re really losing faith in Government. This is a game of smoke and mirrors. We’ve read about it in the newspapers again.
‘It looks like the curfew which was always a really bad idea is going to go, and we’re going to have a really tough form of tiering come in.
‘And to give you an idea of what the tiering looks like, in Tier 3, according to our industry association, 94 per cent of pubs in the UK say they will go out of business by March.’
The pub chain boss rubbished the notion that people would go to the pub to buy takeaways, branding it ‘ridiculous’.
He said that pubs have poured millions into Covid-proofing their venues and are waiting on the green light from the Prime Minister to open to begin stocking up.
‘If the PM said we could open in 10 days time, we’re on a seven-day delivery cycle and so it would only be a week on Friday we could serve the nation’s favourite drink – a pint of cast ale – because it takes three days to settle, so we really are in the last chance saloon at the moment. So we need to know and hopefully the PM sets it out this afternoon.’
Alastair Kerr of the Campaign for Pubs, told MailOnline: ‘It these new restrictions are true and come into place in 10 days time it’s going to be the final nail in the coffin for many pubs across England.
Greg Mulholland, campaign director, added: ‘It is devastating for pubs & publicans that it’s reported that the Government intends to close pubs altogether in Tier 3 and close pubs in Tier 2 unless they serve substantial meals.
‘As well as this not being backed by evidence, it also is grossly unfair to thousands of well-run pubs that serve their communities so well and have shown that they can and have operated safely. This would push many families, reliant on pubs for their livelihoods, into hardship.
‘If the Government does force thousands of pubs to close in December then many will not open again and the Government’s questionable and confused strategy, not Covid, will be responsible.’
Will the lockdown continue and what will reopen when it finally ends? As Boris Johnson plans a NEW system of tiered Covid-19 restrictions next month, we answer the most pressing questions
Will the lockdown continue?
No. Boris Johnson will confirm today the lockdown will end on December 2. It will be replaced by a system of regional restrictions in three tiers.
December 2 is the lockdown’s legal endpoint, with any extension requiring a vote in Parliament.
What comes next will depend on a review of Covid-19 case data to assess if the lockdown has had an effect.
Will the tiers be the same as before?
No. The Government will revert to a three-tier system, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it will be ‘tougher’ than before the lockdown.
What were the tiers before?
England was split into three in October in the original tiered strategy, with areas in the first tier – medium alert – subject to the same national measures which were in force at the time across the country including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Under the second tier – high alert – household mixing was banned indoors while the Rule of Six continued to apply outdoors.
Tier 3 – very high alert – banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
How will this new system be different?
More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the system, and restrictions in each of the areas are expected to be altered.
Under the old system, local leaders were to help determine whether venues such as gyms or casinos should be closed in very high alert level areas, and this may change in the new system.
Ministers will announce on Thursday which tier each area will enter.
What will happen with pubs?
It is understood pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open later than the 10pm curfew which previously existed.
The plans will mean that, while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.
There are reports suggesting that pubs will have to serve a ‘substantial meal’ with any drinks and people must stay within their household groups.
Will shops and gyms reopen when the lockdown ends?
Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade. Gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart.
Betting shops are likely to close in the higher tiers and hospitality venues will probably remain takeaway-only in parts of the country, with restrictions on houses mixing elsewhere.
In Tier One pubs will be allowed to remain open until 11pm, in Tier Two the curfew of 10pm still stands, while in Tier Three you can’t go to the pub at all
Will I be able to see family and friends?
The Rule of Six will remain in place. Indoor socialising with other households will remain banned in the top two tiers and is likely to be restricted in the lowest tier as well.
How will they pick which tier my area goes into?
Ministers will announce on Thursday which tiers will apply to which parts of the country.
The decision will depend on a range of factors, including the number of Covid cases, local NHS capacity and the local R-number – the rate at which the virus is spreading. But Government sources have said that ‘most people’ will be in the top two tiers.
Will 10pm curfew stay?
No. Pubs and restaurants will stop serving alcohol at 10pm, but customers will have until 11pm to drink up and leave.
Will overnight stays outside of your home be allowed?
Overnight stays in other households are currently banned except for support bubbles. After lockdown ends, whether this will be allowed is likely to depend on which tier you are in, if the tier system remains in the same form as before.
Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart
How long will the new tier system last?
The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.
But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.
Government sources said the new system was expected to remain until spring.
Is the vote on the Covid Winter Plan a done deal?
Not entirely – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be wary of a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who are opposed to new restrictions.
During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.
A ‘Covid recovery group’ led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker has been formed to resist new measures, with suggestions 50 Tories have enlisted.
What’s happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland will go into a strict two-week lockdown from Friday, with non-essential retail, the hospitality sector and close-contact services required to shut.
Tougher restrictions were imposed for parts of Scotland on November 20, requiring non-essential shops, the hospitality sector, gyms and beauty salons in 11 council areas to close for three weeks.
The Level 4 restrictions, which apply to parts of west and central Scotland, will be in place until December 11.
Meanwhile, the 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales ended on November 9.
Are restrictions going to be lifted over Christmas?
The Cabinet Office on Sunday said that leaders across the UK had endorsed an objective of ‘some limited additional household bubbling’ will be permitted over the Christmas period for a small number of days.
It comes as Boris Johnson is about to set out the basis of plans for the festive period on Monday, as well as detailing a new tougher three-tier system for England when its national lockdown ends on December 2.
But Mr Johnson will be unable to say how many households will be allowed to mix over Christmas and for how many days restrictions will be relaxed for until a later date, it is understood.
So will people be allowed to see their families at Christmas?
The answer seems to be yes, but the details remain to be finalised.
But the public will be ‘advised to remain cautious’ and told that ‘wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact’, a statement from the Cabinet Office said.
What has been agreed?
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove held discussions on Saturday with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill on shared arrangements for the festive period.
The ministers ‘endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days’, the department said.
Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers
Do we know how many households will be allowed to mix?
The simple answer is no, but there has been a lot of speculation on what the limit will be and for how long the relaxation will last.
The BBC has reported that one option being discussed was for three households to be allowed to meet up over a ‘number of days, maybe five days’.
The Daily Mail however has said up to four families could be allowed to form a coronavirus ‘bubble’, which can meet indoors from Christmas Eve through to December 28.
Full details of Christmas relaxation plans are not expected until after the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have consulted their own cabinets.
When will a decision be made?
The Cabinet Office said that work was continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel.
The Cabinet Office said talks are continuing to finalise the agreement, including over travel arrangements, but that it is hoped the conclusion will come ‘this week’, while the Scottish Government said ‘no agreement has been reached’.
Does this mean Christmas has been saved?
It would seem so.
But even if families are allowed to meet over the festive period, experts are warning that it could lead to more stringent restrictions once the turkey has finally been finished.
Why will stricter restrictions be needed?
Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that any relaxation of restrictions will lead to a rise in infection rates.
Sir David, statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge, also warned that it takes longer for rates to fall than to rise.
He told Times Radio: ‘If there’s got to be an exception it will be for a brief period over Christmas and that’s purely because it is Christmas.
‘There will be a price to pay for it, obviously, you relax restrictions and infection rates go up, you constrain and infection rates will come down as they are going down at the moment.’
‘This is not a symmetrical thing, you don’t have one day off and one day on.
‘It increases a lot faster than it gets better again – it is not a symmetric process.’
So is it going to be a long, dark January in lockdown then?
Not so fast.
Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, has said that while some restrictions might be needed after the festive period, these might not need to be ‘draconian’.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Prof Semple, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), agreed with estimates that every day of relaxation would require five days of tighter restrictions.
But he added: ‘I think in the round it’s right, but it shouldn’t be seen that it is going to be draconian restrictions, it’s just going to prolong restrictions and higher-level restriction for some areas.’
Tests will offer freedom in SEVEN days: Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans for a £7billion coronavirus screening revolution in bid to cut self-isolation time by half
Boris Johnson is to unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative.
The move will allow thousands to get back to normal life even if they have come into contact with an infected person.
Tens of millions of fast-turnaround tests will also be made available to areas put in the highest level of the new tiered system of Covid restrictions.
Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative
The scheme will deploy new ‘lateral flow tests’ which have been trialled in Liverpool and can produce results within 30 minutes.
Ministers believe they could revolutionise the test and trace system, which has struggled to persuade people to self-isolate for the full 14 days.
Under a new system, those who come into contact with an infected person will be able to take a Covid test every day for a week.
If they test negative they will be able to go about their lives as normal. After seven days of negative tests they will be released from the system. Trials of the scheme will begin this week in Liverpool, where the Army has been helping to conduct the first mass testing of an entire city.
If successful, the project will be rolled out for NHS staff next month, before being made available to everyone from January.
Fast-turnaround tests will also be used to enable care home visits this winter. Downing Street last night confirmed that ministers hope to be able to allow residents to receive regular visits from two loved ones.
Named visitors will be tested twice a week. Negative tests will allow people to visit their loved ones and drop social distancing requirements.
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘Crucially, visitors will be able to have physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands with their loved ones.’
Trials have already begun in 20 care homes ahead of a national rollout planned for next month.
Care workers looking after people in their homes will also be offered weekly tests from today.
The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan to be announced by the PM today.
It is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year.
Ministers believe mass testing could play a critical role in enabling society to open up again in the coming months.
Plans are also being drawn up for the development of so-called ‘freedom passes’, which could allow people to attend events like live theatre and sport matches.
But these are not likely to be available until the New Year.
In the short term, the tests will be deployed mainly to help bring the pandemic under control.
Mass testing will be made available to all areas placed in the ‘very high risk’ category of the updated three-tier system the PM will roll out today.
The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year
Sources said trials in Liverpool had shown the tests had proved effective in detecting cases in people with no symptoms, helping to break the chain of transmission and bring down case numbers more quickly.
Weekly tests will also be made available to people in high risk occupations, including prisons and food processing plants.
Teams of people delivering the new vaccines in the coming months will also be eligible for regular testing.
Twice-weekly testing has already begun in the NHS to help identify asymptomatic cases and prevent outbreaks in hospitals.
Care home staff will have testing doubled from weekly to twice weekly from next month. Care home residents will be offered tests weekly rather than the current once a month.
Universities will also be offered testing capacity to test students wanting to travel home to their families at Christmas