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Boris Johnson Dampens Hope Of Easter Pub Return Ahead Of Lockdown Exit Roadmap

The prospect of pubs re-opening at Easter is looking more distant after Johnson's comments (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has issued a reminder that hospitality was "one of the last things” to return after the first lockdown, as the UK eagerly awaits the re-opening of pubs.

The Prime Minister was speaking amid fevered speculation as to what will be contained in his “roadmap” out of the current coronavirus restrictions, due to be announced on Monday.

Reports suggested that while the government will recommend schools be the first things to come back, potentially from 8 March, Johnson will announce a phased re-opening of hospitality starting several weeks later, in time for the long Easter weekend.

But on a visit to a mass vaccination centre in Cwmbran, south Wales, Johnson repeated his message that easing England's lockdown will be based on a "cautious and prudent approach".

"I certainly think that we need to go in stages. We need to go cautiously,” he said.

"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.

"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."

Earlier Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, told the Commons science and technology committee any unlocking should be based on "data, not dates".

Asked if he agreed, the PM said: "I do think that's absolutely right. That's why we'll be setting out what we can on Monday about the way ahead and it'll be based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach to coming out of lockdown in such a way to be irreversible."

Professor McLean had been asked by MPs on the committee if the R level of Covid cases needed to be at a certain level before lockdown can be eased.

She replied: "I think the timing is probably more important, it's how many of the people who are more at risk of - that's a mixture of old people or people with underlying conditions - have been vaccinated before we do more unlocking.

"The important issue is to really watch very closely what is happening, so that if infections start to increase and that we do everything we can to decide whether it is a good moment to take another step in unlocking. Let's use data, not dates."Referring to Johnson's comments at Monday’s press conference that unlocking would be "cautious but irreversible", she added: "I think it has been stated pretty clearly that each step should be irrevocable. 

“That means we have to be extremely careful, before we add another unlocking."

And she explained that while “things are all moving in the right direction” on infections, cases, hospitalisations and deaths there is still a lot of pressure on the NHS.

"There were about 20,000 people in hospital earlier this week. By comparison, in early May there were about 15,000 patients but there's still a lot of people in hospital,” said Professor McClean.

"I share everybody's optimism about how fantastic this vaccine is. But I would say we need to be optimistic and cautious, there's still a lot of infected people out there."

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