Pubs with beer gardens will likely be the first drinking establishments to reopen, a minister has confirmed.

Environment secretary George Eustice said hospitality businesses with outdoor spaces could be allowed to start using them in a matter of weeks.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: ‘The sectors that are going to have the greatest challenge getting back to work, which we recognise, and I’m sure the Chancellor recognises this too – the hospitality sector and some of those other ticketed venues, in particular cinemas and in particular theatres, restaurants and pubs, will also face a challenge getting back in to operation.

‘And that is why we won’t be loosening the restrictions on them until at least July and even then it is likely that in the case of pubs and restaurants it will begin with beer gardens and outdoor areas only.’

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Pub managers have started drawing up plans to implement Covid-safe outdoor areas after speculation that they could reopen from July 4.

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The City Pub Group, which runs 47 pubs mainly in London, said it will set up temporary bars in beer gardens and terraces which staff can ferry drinks to from inside.

They plan to space out their tables and require punters to use disposable cups and contactless payments to minimise the risk of transmitting coronavirus.

A number of bars and cafes have been spotted selling drinks from stalls outside, though it is not clear whether these are permitted yet.

JD Wetherspoon has announced measures for a full reopening when permitted, including requiring customers to sanitise their hands on arrival and follow a one-way system to the bar before being seated at tables surrounded by screens.

The devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will likely be able to set their own rules and timings for which venues can reopen.

Asked about Dominic Cummings, Mr Eustice added: ‘I think [he] gave a very detailed account of what he did and the judgments he made and why he did what he did on Monday in that very long press conference.

‘He acknowledged at the time, look there will be people who will look at the decisions he took and say well was that quite the right thing to do? He might have done differently.

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‘He acknowledged that and I think really though we just need to move on and I don’t think what happened and what he did and what he explained should affect at all people’s approach to this.’

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