The Scottish Hospitality Group has urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take heed of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown and follow a similar course of action, or even relax restrictions earlier than England, in order to protect Scottish jobs and livelihoods.
The Prime Minister announced yesterday that England would come out of all Covid-19 social restrictions by 21st June. The first crucial date for hospitality was 12th April – the date pencilled in for outdoor hospitality to open, with up to six people from separate households able to meet in beer gardens from that date. This would be followed on 17th May, data allowing, for the rest of hospitality to re-open.
Mr Johnson confirmed the hospitality curfews would end as would the requirement to serve a substantial meal alongside alcohol but the ‘rule of six’ would remain. By June 21st at the earliest he expects nightclubs, large events and weddings to be able to take place, with all restrictions on social gatherings lifted. In effect signalling the end of the pandemic. However, he did say that they may “consider the potential role of Covid status certification” – which could refer to so-called “vaccine passports” – in helping indoor venues to reopen safely.
The Prime Minister did say that some would like the easing of restrictions to accelerate while others who were more cautious would “stay in the slow lane” and he revealed his four-step roadmap would be dictated by the data and depend on the rollout of the vaccine, infection rates and new coronavirus variants with a five-week delay between each relaxation allowing for progress to be monitored carefully.
The Prime Ministers roadmap was announced as the first data on the UK’s coronavirus vaccine rollout suggested it was having a “spectacular” impact on stopping serious illness.
The Scottish Hospitality Group, whose members employ some 6,000 staff, welcomed the announcement from the UK government and called on the Scottish government to aim for an even earlier opening for Scotland’s beleaguered hospitality industry following the publication of a new study showing how effective the vaccine is.
Spokesperson Stephen Montgomery said, “The Prime Minister has finally given hope to the thousands of hard-working staff and business owners in the country’s pubs, restaurants, hotels, event venues and nightclubs. It’s vital that we see the Scottish Government take a similar evidence-based approach as these encouraging plans.
“By the time May comes around, we will have endured more than a year of avoidable pain. Now, at last, we may be able to prepare for a return to normality. We desperately want to see Nicola Sturgeon confirm similar plans for Scotland in her statement, and allow us to be a part of that. Anything less would be an incredible betrayal of those people whose livelihoods have been under threat for so long.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there “no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain nor indeed a zero-Covid world” however Nicola Sturgeon has on many occasions said she is striving for Covid-elimination, however, this would not mean it would be eradicated. Prof Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical director has said that “Elimination is not eradicating the virus. In order to be completely eradicated, we need a smallpox-style, many years project.”
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said of the Prime Minister’s announcement, “We were looking for a clear roadmap out of lockdown for our sector and an indication of the dates when we could fully reopen and operate viably, again.
“Whilst we have received the earliest possible dates for reopening, our sector will continue to face severe restrictions that limit their business and stop them from being viable. The reality is debt is mounting and many pubs simply won’t be able to hold out to April or May and will close for good before any door gets open.
“Outdoor service only from April 12th will likely mean that 3 in 5 pubs across the UK will remain closed. That’s 29,000 pubs still not able to open either because they don’t have any outdoor space or simply because they will not be commercially sustainable. Because of this, the majority of pubs will not reopen until May 17th at the earliest, meaning that they will have been closed for almost 8 months. It will mean just 17% of our pubs’ capacity will open from April. That will cost our sector £1.5 billion.
“The Prime Minister said he will not pull the rug out and do whatever it takes. We will hold both him and the Chancellor to this.”
Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said, “We are desperate to reopen our pubs and welcome back our customers and understand there needs to be a sensible easing out of lockdown.
“Opening pub gardens in April simply isn’t viable so many pubs will have to remain closed and, with a phased reopening from May, next week’s Budget needs to bring positive news as we continue to burn tens of millions of pounds in cash every month. An extension to furlough, the business rates holiday and hospitality VAT cut for another year, as well as providing additional targeted support to those most affected, will help project jobs and the future of the great British pub. As we look to June, we need clarity on what the full lifting of restrictions looks like so we can plan for pubs to be open as normal once more.
“Pubs and hospitality can be part of the solution when it comes to safe and responsible socialising, where people can meet in Covid-secure environments rather than behind closed doors in each other’s homes.”