Two week reprieve could see pubs and restaurants open before Christmas

A two-week “reprieve” to allow pubs and restaurants to open before Christmas is seen as desirable by several members of the Government.

As part of the plans being developed for when the country exits level 5 lockdown restrictions, the  has confirmed that should the rate of Covid-19 transmissions drop sufficiently within the next week or so, some of these measure would include:

  • All retail outlets will be allowed to reopen
  • ‘Wet pubs and restaurants to open in the run-up to Christmas under Covid-19 rules;
  • It would include people sitting at tables and no bar service, as happened earlier in the year;
  • Travel around the country to allow people to visit family is unlikely to be prevented and will not be policed;
  • Sporting activities including golf and tennis will be allowed to resume;
  • Religious services will be permitted.

While a decision has not yet been made, ministers and other Government sources have indicated that what is being discussed represents a “clear direction of travel”.

Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, said there is an appetite in Cabinet to try to give people some hope and to be “as ambitious as possible” for the hospitality and retail sectors.

“You will see a significant change though at the start of December,” he said.

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“We want to be as ambitious as we can be in terms of the removal of restrictions to try to ensure that we create as positive a Christmas period as possible for traders and families, and everybody else,” he said.

Level 2.5

We will do everything we can for businesses, because this is a hugely important time of year for them, both retail and hospitality. But we’ve got to do it in a way that’s responsible and doesn’t naively ignore public-health advice either, in a way that we’ll all regret in early January,” he said.

Other ministers said privately that what is intended is an overall move to level 3 restrictions after the six-week lockdown, but before Christmas it “will drop to something like level 2.5”.

“We could get the numbers well down and that would merit going to level 2. But the reason you wouldn’t go to level 2 is to avoid a lockdown in January. So, level 3 would be the compromise but with a two-week reprieve which would be fair,” said a minister.

“From a public-health point of view I can’t see how having a pint in the pub that doesn’t do bar service is any less safe than having people over for drinks to your house,” said another.

A number of ministers expressed the view that people need to be trusted, urging flexibility.

All of the ministers spoken to say there is a desire to allow people to travel to their families for Christmas.

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