The Government is expected to reveal its roadmap for the unlocking of the country next week (Monday 22 February), which Johnson said would be when more details around the trade reopening will be revealed.
During a visit to a mass vaccination centre in Cwmbran in south Wales today (Wednesday 17 February), the Prime Minister was asked if he agreed with calls for case rates to be much lower before hospitality reopens.
He responded: “I certainly think we need to go in stages, we need to go cautiously. Last year, we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality.
“But we will be setting it all out on Monday. I know there’s a lot of understandable speculation in the papers and people are coming up with theories about what we are going to do and what we are going to say about rates of infection and so on, I would advise everybody, just wait, we will try and say as much as we can on Monday.”
Cautious and prudent
On the expected announcement next week, Johnson said the plan will be based on a “cautious and prudent approach to coming out of lockdown in such a way that is irreversible. We want to be going one way from now on based on the incredible vaccination roll out”.
Many in the trade have been called on the Government to allow the sector to reopen with minimal restrictions.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has put together a Road To Recovery report, which highlighted five key points it wanted to Government to consider when pubs can reopen.
It highlighted after the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated, pubs must reopen when non-essential retail and other parts of the hospitality sector reopen – something that has also been stated by trade voices such as Admiral Taverns boss Chris Jowsey and Greater Manchester night-time adviser and operator Sacha Lord.
Research from the BBPA found in Q2 of 2020, which included lockdown one, beer sales in the on-trade plummeted by 96%.
In Q4 last year, a time with trading restrictions were heavily imposed with tiers and a second lockdown, pub beer sales fell by 77% compared to 2019.
Despite Eat Out to Help Out being in place in Q3, as well as the temporary VAT cut on food and soft drinks, beer sales in pubs still dropped by 27%.
The measures outlined by the BBPA are:
- Business rates holiday extension for the 2021/22 financial year
- The reduced 5% VAT rate on soft drinks, food and accommodation to be extended for a further 12 months and expanded to cover alcoholic drinks with a review in the future in a bid to be a permanent reduction
- Grants and employment support (namely the furlough scheme and Job Retention Bonus) to be continued if trading restrictions are still in place after April
- A brewer compensation fund for stock write-offs due to the pandemic and resulting lockdowns
- Positive and proactive communication to boost consumers returning to hospitality venues alongside consideration of further demand stimulus if confidence in the sector remains fragile