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Minister warns people will end up ‘behind bars’ if they break law as pubs reopen

The comments came as England launches major easing of lockdown.

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Jessica Weir and Eddie Smyth at The Thirsty Goat in Belfast, as many bars and pubs across Belfast have reopened today following further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Jessica Weir and Eddie Smyth at The Thirsty Goat in Belfast, as many bars and pubs across Belfast have reopened today following further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Jessica Weir and Eddie Smyth at The Thirsty Goat in Belfast, as many bars and pubs across Belfast have reopened today following further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned people could end up “behind bars” if they get carried away as pubs across England reopen on what has been dubbed Super Saturday.

A major easing of lockdown measures sees pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas opening their doors again under modified social distancing regulations.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Government experts have urged people to stick to the rules to avoid creating a second wave of coronavirus.

I’m no killjoy, but the virus can still kill. I don’t want to see bars and pubs have to close againHealth Secretary Matt Hancock

Mr Hancock told the Daily Mail that people were entitled to enjoy themselves at pubs, but added: “You could end up behind bars if you break the law.”

The comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people not to “blow” progress in combating the spread of the disease made during the lockdown as he deployed the Government’s new slogan “enjoy summer safely”.

Meanwhile the Health Secretary said he would not “shirk” from shutting pubs and restaurants again and imposing local lockdowns if needed.

He said: “I’m no killjoy, but the virus can still kill. I don’t want to see bars and pubs have to close again. I love going to the pub and enjoy a pint or two.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak urged people to make the most of the easing to boost the economy, claiming the public needs to “eat out to help out”.

He told the Times: “This is a consumption-driven economy; people used to, three months ago, go out with their friends or family to go and have a meal. Or buy a car, or upgrade their house, or move house. Go camping, come up to the Yorkshire Dales and go coast to coast.”

The comments come after chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the coronavirus pandemic “is a long way from gone” as he urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as the lockdown is eased.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of the “superspreading” of Covid-19 occurring in pubs.

At a Downing Street press conference on Friday Prof Whitty said: “None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.

“There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.

“And therefore we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”

Restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas were allowed to begin reopening from midnight on Saturday, but pubs had to wait until 6am, with Downing Street fearing early morning partying.

The Department for Transport has also published a list of 73 countries and territories where English tourists can visit without self-isolating on their return.

It features popular short-haul destinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, as well as long-haul locations including Australia, Barbados, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam.

China, Portugal, Thailand, the Maldives and the US are among the notable absentees.

But the Portuguese government reacted with anger to the exclusion of the country’s mainland from the list saying it was “absurd”.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson depart (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson depart (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson depart (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In other developments:

– The PM said the Government would set out a timetable next week for the reopening of still-shuttered businesses including gyms, swimming pools and theatres.

– Mr Johnson said cricket could resume in time for next weekend, with guidelines to be published in the coming days.

– The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK has passed 55,000, according to the latest available data.

– The Office for National Statistics said almost 20,000 care home residents have died with coronavirus up to June 12.

– Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed the five-mile travel restriction in Wales will be lifted from Monday.

In Northern Ireland, pubs were allowed to reopen on Friday, but Scotland and Wales are taking a more cautious approach.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported that Britain is in talks with the EU about joining forces to secure a potential coronavirus vaccine.

A spokesperson for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Work is ongoing to determine whether and how the UK participates in the EU Vaccines Strategy.”

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