Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested lockdown measures will not begin to be eased until the impact of vaccinating top priority groups can be seen.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said that if the minister's comments implied the lockdown would not be eased until the middle of spring, many pubs “will simply fail to survive that long”.
The Government aims to vaccinate those in the top four priority groups before mid-February, when lockdown rules are set to be reviewed.
It has started to contact those in the over-70s and clinically extremely vulnerable cohort about upcoming vaccinations, in areas where high rates of residents over 80 have been vaccinated.
Zahwai told BBC Breakfast there were some caveats standing in the way of reopening the economy and the vaccine’s impact remained to be seen.
"If we take the mid-February target, two weeks after that you get your protection, pretty much, for the Pfizer/BioNTech, three weeks for the Oxford/AstraZeneca, you are protected," he added.
"One of the things we don't know yet, and the deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam is on record as saying 'look give me a couple of months and I'll tell you', is the impact of the vaccine on transmission rates i.e on infecting people."
Zahwai continued: "So there are a number of caveats that stand in the way of us reopening the economy.
"But I think rightly, the combination of vaccination and mass testing will allow us to open up the economy gradually."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Zahwai said once the impact of the vaccinations have been seen on the top nine priority groups, restrictions could start to be eased.
He was asked if vaccinations could be eased in March should the rate of vaccinations continue.
"If we have protected the top nine cohorts, according to the JCVI (the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) that's 99% of mortality, and two/three weeks later we see that protection in place then we can begin to gradually lift the 'non-pharmaceutical interventions' (NPIs) and get the economy back on its feet,” he replied.
What was interesting was him explicitly mentioning the top 9 cohorts, who account for 99% of deaths.— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) January 18, 2021
He also mentioned the top 4 cohorts mid Feb deadline but he remarks re easing restrictions followed the top 9. Govt obvs nervous of too early unlockdown
The Government intends to release the country from lockdown slowly, with ministers suggesting a return to a tiered system of coronavirus measures.
If we are starting to ease only from mid April many businesses will simply fail to survive that long without further injections of support. The top 9 cohorts incl all over 50s and 99% of deaths. Surely there can either be some pathway earlier or at that point no need for tiers https://t.co/ACGV8UzbA3— Kate Nicholls (@UKHospKate) January 18, 2021
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said if pubs are to be only reopened once the top nine priority groups are vaccinated then there must be “further injections of support.”
She tweeted: “If we are starting to ease only from mid April many businesses will simply fail to survive that long without further injections of support. The top 9 cohorts incl all over 50s and 99% of deaths. Surely there can either be some pathway earlier or at that point no need for tiers.”
Several newspapers have speculated that pubs could reopen in May, as one of the last sector's to reopen.