Pubs and restaurants hit by new Covid restrictions – so shops, churches and gyms can reopen
Pubs and restaurants will bear the brunt of a new Covid tier system so that shops, cinemas and gyms can reopen under plans announced by Boris Johnson on Monday.
Hospitality businesses in Tier 3 will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with “substantial meals”.
The measures – which are significantly tougher than under the previous tier system – were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs on Sunday night, with a warning that one million jobs are now on the line.
It came as the Government announced that families will be able to enjoy Christmas together across the whole of the UK after ministers agreed a plan that will allow up to four households to mix for five days.
Mr Johnson will take a further step towards saving the traditional family Christmas by announcing on Monday that communal worship can resume next month, meaning advent and Christmas Day services can go ahead.
The Prime Minister will announce a revised tier system that will replace the current lockdown on December 3.
While there is bad news for pubs, other restrictions will be lighter than under the old tier system.
All shops will be allowed to open in all tiers, together with gyms and places of worship, while recreational sport, including golf, tennis and organised team sports can resume.
Cinemas will be allowed to reopen in Tiers 1 and 2, and the advice to “work from home if you can” will remain across the country.
An announcement will also be made on social mixing, with the “rule of six” expected to return in lower tiers and a ban on household mixing likely to be brought back in Tier 3.
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Mr Johnson faces a growing Tory rebellion over the new measures after 70 backbench MPs said they would oppose them in a Parliamentary vote next week unless the Government could show they “save more lives than they cost”.
The Treasury will also come under intense pressure to provide more help for the hospitality industry after ministers were accused of using pubs and restaurants as a “sacrificial lamb” to save other sectors.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, had argued for pubs and restaurants to be allowed to come out of the tier system on December 22 – two days before the tiers are suspended for Christmas – to help them to make up for previous losses, but he appears to have been overruled by Mr Johnson after scientific advisers claimed the hospitality sector was the weak link in suppressing the spread of coronavirus.
The 10pm curfew for hospitality will be scrapped, and instead last orders will be called at 10pm with an hour’s drinking up time before a new curfew time of 11pm.
But it will be little consolation to businesses that will be forced to close their doors to customers in Tier 3 areas, or those that can only serve alcohol with meals in Tier 2. Under the old tiers, pubs in Tier 3 could stay open if they could operate as restaurants, while in Tier 2 they could open as normal but customers could not mix indoors with anyone from another household.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the news was “far worse than anyone could have anticipated”.
She said: “This a cruel decision and it just feels as if the whole sector is being thrown to the wolves.
“If the tiers had stayed as they were until March, we were already expecting 94 per cent of businesses in Tier 3 and 74 per cent of businesses in Tier 2 to go to the wall. Now we have restrictions that are even worse.
“We make 25 per cent of our profits in the run-up to Christmas and the Government is taking that away.
“This will have a catastrophic effect on a large number of businesses and all those jobs that were furloughed will now be lost. You are talking about the prospect of a million job losses and 30 to 40,000 premises closing their doors for good.”
The announcement of a UK-wide agreement on easing restrictions over Christmas means families who have relatives in another of the home nations, who have at times been prevented from visiting them because of different rules either side of the border, can now confidently plan get-togethers over the festive break.
The leaders of all four home nations have agreed that the same rules will apply in every part of the country between Christmas Eve and December 28.
Further details of the easing of rules over Christmas will be announced later this week, but the leaders of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are understood to be deciding whether three or four households will be allowed to mix and whether the new restrictions on pubs will also be lifted temporarily.
Families must decide on their extended bubbles in advance and will not be able to mix with anyone from outside that bubble during the festive break. It will mean families will be able to have both sets of grandparents to stay.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said the leaders had “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”.
However the leaders also “emphasised that the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”.