Covid lockdown England: Tory MPs urge Boris Johnson not to ‘move goalposts’

Ministers were yesterday accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ and creating uncertainty in plans to lift the lockdown.

They were urged by MPs to stick to Boris Johnson’s ‘data not dates’ pledge and publish target figures for when restrictions could be eased.

It came as business leaders warned more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants face permanent closure if they are not allowed to open fully before May 17.

Other figures showed 17,500 shops which were part of big chains closed last year as the pandemic ravaged high streets.

Ministers were yesterday accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ and creating uncertainty in plans to lift the lockdown. They were urged by MPs to stick to Boris Johnson’s (pictured) ‘data not dates’ pledge and publish target figures for when restrictions could be eased

Ministers were yesterday accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ and creating uncertainty in plans to lift the lockdown. They were urged by MPs to stick to Boris Johnson’s (pictured) ‘data not dates’ pledge and publish target figures for when restrictions could be eased

Ministers were yesterday accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ and creating uncertainty in plans to lift the lockdown. They were urged by MPs to stick to Boris Johnson’s (pictured) ‘data not dates’ pledge and publish target figures for when restrictions could be eased

MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee accused the Government of a lack of transparency. They said in a report: ‘The framework for lockdown and tiering decisions has changed repeatedly throughout this pandemic.

‘While the committee does not object to the inclusion of new metrics (such as vaccines), changes in the framework to date have not always appeared to reflect new information. This has amounted to a moving of the goalposts, which creates uncertainty, makes it impossible to see trends and therefore must stop.’

In England, it is planned to end lockdown in stages, with all restrictions lifted by June 21. Key dates include March 29, when people will be allowed to meet outside in a limited way and outdoor sports facilities will reopen.

From April 12, all shops will be allowed to open and members of the same household can take a holiday in the UK in self-contained accommodation. From May 17, people can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors and pubs and restaurants can seat customers indoors.

The MPs urged ministers to update the Prime Minister’s lockdown roadmap by adding data showing what targets need to be met to lift each set of restrictions.

It came as business leaders warned more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants face permanent closure if they are not allowed to open fully before May 17

It came as business leaders warned more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants face permanent closure if they are not allowed to open fully before May 17

It came as business leaders warned more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants face permanent closure if they are not allowed to open fully before May 17

The report stressed: ‘Increased transparency created by clear thresholds will increase public trust and confidence.’

It added: ‘The committee welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to a “data not dates” approach, but notes that the roadmap actually contains several dates and very little in the way of data. We have stressed the importance of trust and there is a risk that the roadmap will be undermined if the Government is not able to lift restrictions in line with the dates outlined.’

It said the leisure and hospitality sectors had not seen the figures behind decisions to restrict their businesses. Responding to the MPs’ criticisms, a government spokesman last night stressed ministers had published expert documents and ‘presented transparent data frequently at over 125 press conferences alongside scientific experts, offering direct scrutiny by the public and the media’.

Meanwhile, business leaders warned huge numbers of pubs and restaurants face permanent closure if the indoor reopening date of May 17 is not brought forward. They said businesses will have been shut with close to no revenue for nearly five months.

Thirty venues have closed every day since the beginning of the pandemic last year, but the figure has soared to 56 in the current lockdown, according to analysis by management consultants AlixPartners and data experts CGA.

Other figures showed 17,500 shops which were part of big chains closed last year as the pandemic ravaged high streets

Other figures showed 17,500 shops which were part of big chains closed last year as the pandemic ravaged high streets

Other figures showed 17,500 shops which were part of big chains closed last year as the pandemic ravaged high streets

If businesses continue to shut at the same rate, 3,528 more venues will be forced to close by May 17. The hospitality industry says it has shed 660,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic and lost £71.8billion of sales in 2020.

Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality, said: ‘The rate of licensed venue closures, and consequent livelihoods destroyed, is staggering.’ She insisted: ‘Having to wait until May seems an unnecessary delay that could jeopardise thousands more jobs and businesses.’

Alex Reilley, of the Loungers restaurant group, said: ‘Between now and the May 17, we will continue to see good, previously viable, hospitality businesses failing at a devastating rate through absolutely no fault of their own.’

Two bosses are threatening the Government with action in the High Court if it does not move the reopening date to April 12.

Sacha Lord, of the Warehouse Project and Manchester’s nightlife tsar, and Hugh Osmond, of Punch Taverns, wrote to Mr Johnson to say there is ‘no evidence or justification’ for opening non-essential retail before hospitality.

Research yesterday showed that more than 17,500 chain shops closed last year – 48 per day. Even after new openings are factored in, the number of stores fell by nearly 9,900, said researchers at PwC and the Local Data Company. Chains to collapse included Debenhams.

I will fight in court to get pubs open again, writes Punch Taverns founder HUGH OSMOND

By Hugh Osmond for the Daily Mail

Back in January the Prime Minister heralded the new Covid vaccines as our ‘way out’ of lockdown

Since then more than 24million people have been vaccinated but the Government has been busily moving the goalposts and I don’t know a single person who understands why we are doing what we’re doing any more.

Indoor ‘non-essential’ retail outlets will be allowed to reopen on April 12 while pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks unless they have a garden or terrace they can use for outdoor dining.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks after April 12 when non-essential retail outlets can reopen

Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks after April 12 when non-essential retail outlets can reopen

Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks after April 12 when non-essential retail outlets can reopen 

Not only does this long delay needlessly squander the benefits of the fast vaccination rollout, it is plainly irrational, unscientific and not based on evidence.

So, along with Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, I wrote to the Prime Minister this weekend notifying him of our intention to take his Government to court.

When taking momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens, the Government must base its decisions on evidence, not prejudice, and should be held to account if it does not.

Our case follows Sacha’s successful challenge regarding the Government’s ludicrous Scotch egg proposal last November. This ruling, you may recall, categorised the dish as a ‘substantial meal’ for the purposes of tier regulations which banned drinking in pubs unless food was ordered too.

Judges confirmed that the measure ‘lacked a proper scientific evidential basis’ and found that where a Government acts without evidence it risks having its decisions overturned. The Government reversed its decision as a result.

In the last 12 months tens of thousands of hospitality businesses – from landlords and restaurateurs to suppliers and contractors – have been forced into bankruptcy.

By returning to court in a bid to have the end of the hospitality lockdown brought forward to April 12 we hope to provide a boost for the industry’s workforce – more than three million people – and the millions of loyal customers who have been deprived of the human social interaction they experience in our premises.

if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny, says Hugh Osmond

if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny, says Hugh Osmond

 if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny, says Hugh Osmond

Hospitality is essential for local communities, businesses and economies because our ability to socialise is critical to our mental health and – when it comes to Covid – our sector is significantly safer than non-essential retail where the risk of transmission is higher. 

Why? Because last summer a vast amount of time, money and effort went into making hospitality venues ‘Covid-secure’.

We hired extra cleaners, implemented rigorous track-and-trace systems – complete with QR codes and phone apps – and developed strict one-way systems and table-only sit-down service so that customers could stay safely and socially distanced at their tables within their bubbles.

Meanwhile, most hospitality venues have ventilation systems of a standard much higher than that defined by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies as sufficient to prevent airborne transmission.

With all these measures in place, it is obvious that hospitality venues are safer than crowded shops.

And, as a result, the number of outbreaks in hospitality venues was significantly lower than the totals reported in other venues, settings or workplaces.

Public health directors such as Sheffield City Council’s Greg Fell tell us that ‘hospitality does not crop up as a terribly big factor’ and is ‘nowhere near the top’ of his ‘risk radar’.

In the hospitality sector revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed

In the hospitality sector revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed

In the hospitality sector revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed

And yet – while we remain closed – from April 12 people will resume browsing and queuing in shops where they will walk around freely, touching surfaces and handles, picking up items and getting closer to other shoppers than they would if they were in a bar or restaurant.

I understand the desire for caution and the imperative need for this to be the last lockdown we ever face.

But if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy and our health and welfare, we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny.

In the hospitality sector alone revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed.

Between now and May 17 – the date set for the indoor reopening of hospitality businesses – more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants will close their doors for ever.

It shouldn’t be difficult for the Government to justify its roadmap timetable if the science, data and evidence have been followed. But if the Government refuses to respond, we will issue judicial review proceedings without further notice.

I hope our case can open up a chink of light at the end of this very dark chapter so that we can – as the Prime Minister said – ‘reclaim our lives and freedoms once and for all’.

Link hienalouca.com

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