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Idea of pubs opening in April is premature, expert warns

Scientists continue to urge caution over the easing of the current coronavirus restrictions.

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(PA)

(PA)

(PA)

Talking about pubs reopening in April is “premature” and pub bosses need to realise there is a danger of going “back to square one”, an expert has said.

The warning comes after pub giant Young’s said there is no reason pubs cannot open in April, as its boss expressed exasperation at the Government’s “lack of interest”.

The chain has called on Boris Johnson to “do the right thing” and show strong leadership when the industry “needs it most”.

It is better to get it right than to prematurely bow to pressure and open up when you're not ready to open upDr Bharat Pankhania

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the chief executive of Young’s said the Government is basing its decision to keep pubs closed on “unfounded and unproven statistics”.

But Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, told the PA news agency: “It’s premature because we don’t know what the state of cases will be in the country at that point in time.

“It may be that the cases are low and that we have regained control because we are now managing to keep the case numbers down and our immunisation levels have been sufficiently high to have a majority of the vulnerable population immunised and therefore protected,” he said, highlighting the “criteria” required.

Dr Pankhania, who has widespread experience of advising on national communicable disease control action plans at national and international level, added: “What the executives of pubs etc etc need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one.

“And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.

“It is better to get it right than to prematurely bow to pressure and open up when you’re not ready to open up,” he said.

Dr Pankhania said all activities where human to human interactions occur involve risk, pointing out that alcohol also makes people drop their guard.

“Whichever way you want to cut it, you drink alcohol to relax and have a bonhomie with your friends.

“One of the consequences of relaxing is that you drop your guard,” he said.

In his letter to Mr Johnson, chief executive of Young’s, Patrick Dardis wrote: “Young’s is calling on the government to save our great British pubs and pull the country back from the brink of economic misery.”

He added: “We are exasperated at the obvious lack of interest and respect we are getting from this government.”

Mr Dardis referred to pubs sector CEOs resigning from a forum, adding: “We are shocked and appalled that the government is basing its decisions to keep the great British pub closed on unfounded and unproven statistics.

“As the vaccination program continues to gain incredible momentum and protects those most at risk, the Government’s message to the pub sector remains despairingly bleak.

“We have been given no indication whatsoever that pubs will be allowed to reopen, nor any guidance about what restrictions may be in place when they can.”

He added: “There is no reason why pubs cannot open in April, giving people back their liberty and their much loved pub.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disappointed that some pub leaders have decided to step back from meetings with ministers.

“As we plan our way out of restrictions, we will continue to engage relentlessly with the hospitality sector, as we have done throughout this pandemic, and our door remains firmly open.

“The Prime Minister will set out our plan to gradually reopen the economy in the week of February 22.

“We understand that this is an extremely tough time for the hospitality sector, but we are supporting business with one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of business support in the world worth £280 billion.”

Scientists continue to urge caution over the easing of the current controls when Mr Johnson sets out his “road-map” out of lockdown for England later this month.

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Boris Johnson urged caution (PA)

Boris Johnson urged caution (PA)

PA

Boris Johnson urged caution (PA)

Mr Johnson was asked on Saturday if people could be drinking in pub gardens in April, and he told reporters: “If you don’t mind I’m going to ask you just wait a little bit longer, give us some more time to look at the data about what’s happening, look at the way the numbers are coming down, study also I think, very importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines – are they working in the way that we hope that they are?

“Making sure that they’re really helping along with the lockdown to drive down the incidents. That’s the key thing.

“I’m optimistic, I won’t hide it from you. I’m optimistic, but we have to be cautious.”

PA


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