How long will pubs be closed? When pubs could reopen as government source claims they may shut until May

Many of us could do with a nice, cold pint right now – but just when will popping down the local be possible again

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 8:23 am

Rumours of a tightening of England’s current national lockdown restrictions are swirling, as chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned the UK has not yet hit the peak of the current wave of Covid-19 infection.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly discussed the prospect of introducing tougher controls to ensure the public abide by the restrictions, such as stopping people exercising with one other person.

Prof Whitty said he expects the next few weeks being “the worst” of the pandemic for the NHS, and said “tinkering" with the rules “may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment.”

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Stools on a bar in a closed pub in Clapham Junction in May 2020 (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Here is everything you need to know:

When might pubs open again?

Currently, under England's national lockdown restrictions, hospitality venues such as pubs must not open in the traditional sense.

A lock and chain placed across an entrance to a closed pub in London (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

They are still able to provide food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway until 11pm, including click-and-collect and drive-through services, but to actually go to the pub for a drink is something we’re all missing out on.

So when could we be able to go for a pint again?

The situation is by no means the same, but using the first lockdown as an example, pubs only began to reopen in any form 103 days after England’s first national lockdown was imposed on 23 March 2020.

If it takes a similar amount of time for them to get up and running again following the latest lockdown, we could expect to see pubs opening their doors in some capacity from around mid-to-late April.

But case numbers, deaths and hospital admissions continue to be higher than they were during the April 2020 peak, meaning the situation is much worse than it was 10 months ago.

Will pubs be shut longer this time?

It could be that restrictions will last longer as we battle our way out of the winter months.

Prof Whitty suggested measures could still be needed until “some time in the spring” to stem the spread of the virus, and Downing Street is reportedly considering keeping the lockdown in place until late March, with pubs forced to stay shut for longer.

A source has also told The Times that the May day bank holiday was likely to be “the moment you see pubs reopening” – almost 17 weeks after the third lockdown was brought in.

“We’re really going to have to do a significant action for all of us for several more weeks until probably some time in the spring for very much of what we have to do,” said Prof Whitty.

But he suggested it will be “months, not years” until life gets back to normal.

What impact could that have on pubs?

Publicans won’t be happy to see restrictions continue much longer than they need to.

Even in December, when the Government’s four-tiered plan was relatively much more relaxed than the current national lockdown, the hospitality sector was hit hard.

Spending declined at bars and pubs, which were down by 71.4% annually, and restaurants, which saw a 65.4% decline.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products, said changing coronavirus restrictions continue to have an impact on spending habits – “which was particularly acute across the high street and hospitality sectors in December, with restaurants, pubs and bars hardest hit during a low-key festive season in the majority of the UK”.

Will tougher lockdown restrictions be imposed?

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has raised concerns that restrictions may need to be toughened, especially in supermarkets and when exercising, as mass vaccination sites opened.

“We don’t want to use tougher measures,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “but it is important to remember this virus loves social interactions.”

“We’re reviewing all the restrictions… I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that “every flex can be fatal” as he backed more stringent enforcement of the lockdown by police, and The Telegraph quoted a Government source as suggesting restrictions on exercise could be tightened.

Mr Hancock will lead a Downing Street press conference on coronavirus alongside NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis at 5pm this evening (January 11), Downing Street has said.