Pubs and bars have been shut in Britain since the end of March as the UK tried to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. After weeks of strict lockdown restrictions, Britons have been wondering when pubs will reopen. Wetherspoons, with around 900 pubs in the UK, has announced that it is starting to plan the reopening of its pubs and hotels “in or around June”.
Chairman Tim Martin was forced to close all of his pubs at the end of March and was embroiled in a row over pay for Wetherspoons workers, before confirming they would pay staff during the lockdown.
“As we have already confirmed, Wetherspoon will pay all our 43,000 staff this Friday for the hours worked last week,” founder Mr Martin said in a statement sent to media.
At the end of March, Mr Martin said shutting pubs over the coronavirus outbreak was “over the top”.
On March 20, pubs and restaurants were told to shut their doors – with the restrictions initially in place for three weeks.
Pubs could reopen in June – Wetherspoon’s announcement
Boris Johnson told pubs to close on March 20
All of the UK’s nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres were told to close “as soon as they reasonably can”.
Since then, the coronavirus restrictions have been extended until May 7, where another review will be completed.
However, the Government is yet to be drawn on its exit plans from the lockdown – and when some areas of normal life will resume.
Some countries across Europe have started to ease certain restrictions – with small shops among the first to reopen.
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Tim Martin was initially critical of pubs being closed
Boris Johnson returned to work on Monday after recovering from COVID-19, but warned the UK was at the moment of “maximum risk”.
The Prime Minister did not outline when lockdown restrictions would be relaxed, but added a conversation around future decisions on the strict rules would become more clear in the “coming days”.
He said: “When we’re sure that this first phase is over and that we’re meeting our five tests – deaths falling, NHS protected, rate of infection down, really sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE, avoiding a second peak – then that will be the time to move on to the second phase in which we continue to suppress the disease and keep the reproduction rate, the R rate, down but begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions, and one by one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.
“In that process, difficult judgments will be made, and we simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly, the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.
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The UK has been on lockdown since the end of March
“I want to serve notice now that these decisions will be taken with the maximum possible transparency, and I want to share all our working and our thinking, my thinking, with you, the British people.”
During Wednesday’s daily press conference at Number 10, the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, confirmed that the evidence suggested coronavirus spreads less easily outside.
But, he played down the prospect of a return to outdoor activities.
Asked about the return of Parkrun events, the opening of garden centres, beach trips or drinking in pub beer gardens, Professor Van-Tam warned the virus will return if measures are not eased very carefully.
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Pubs have been closed in the UK since the end of March
He said: “These are complex and, at various different points, they might involve a congregation of individuals and one has to be very painstaking and very careful about thinking through some of these before we make the wrong move to relax measures.
“We have to be extremely sure-footed and extremely painstaking about this. This virus will absolutely come back.
“This is with us for quite some time, potentially for as long as until we get a vaccine, so from that perspective, we have to be really careful and really sure-footed and I’m not going to suggest for a moment that any of this should be rushed.”
The Government has repeatedly said the lockdown restrictions will not be lifted until its five tests have been met.
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The tests include: Making sure the NHS can cope; A ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate; Rate of infection decreasing to ‘manageable levels’; Ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand; and Being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak.
When asked about pubs reopening in June, Professor Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis Brendan WrenLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggested it seems unlikely.
He said: “It’s a social place, a temptation to be close to people. Maybe just opening beer gardens might help. I think we have to think imaginatively as to what can be done.”
It comes as the UK announced 765 deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday, taking Britain’s total to 26,097.
The coronavirus death toll in Britain appeared to take a huge spike on Wednesday as the government included deaths from hospitals, care homes and in the community, which they said was not possible before.