The move to temporarily impose a ban on booze is designed to allay fears from Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer and others, about the effect of drinking on social distancing, according to the Daily Telegraph. The reopening of pubs and restaurants is proving a thorny issue for the Government. Ministers are coming under increasing pressure from their own backbenchers to lift restrictions on the hospitality sector as soon as possible.
Yet the effect of alcohol on people’s observance of social distancing rules is a major cause of concern for health experts and the police.
Despite the rollout of the vaccine, many epidemiologists argue that some social distancing will have to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Police said that last year it was “crystal clear” that drinkers do not observe social distancing rules.
One solution to the problem is to adopt Scotland’s indoor alcohol ban, which was introduced in October.
The alternative would be to postpone the opening of pubs and restaurants until later in the year to allow for more people to be vaccinated.
By some estimates, the UK will reach herd immunity through the vaccine rollout by July, as long as there are no disruptions to supplies.
This would be an unpopular choice with many Tory backbenchers.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), made up of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, said recently the Government “must start easing restrictions” by early March to help businesses recover from the pandemic.
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Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “We welcome the opportunity to have sensible and pragmatic discussions with the Government about the pace and nature of reopening.
“It’s important that any restrictions deliver the maximum health benefits for minimum economic harm. That’s why we are pleased they are revisiting curfew and substantial table meals.
“But it’s vital that the ongoing support takes into account the latest economic situation. It’s important that support continues through recovery while companies struggle to break even.”