United Kingdom

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insists bars will stay open

There are no plans to shut England's pubs the Housing Secretary said today despite England's Chief Medical Officer warning that they may have to close so schools can restart in September.

Robert Jenrick, this morning was asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs after a rise in coronavirus transmissions and said: 'We don't have any plans to do that.'

He added that schools would definitely return to full capacity in September and confirmed it would be the priority should there be a second spike of infections.

It comes just days after Chris Whitty warned the country had 'probably reached near the limit or the limits' of what can be done to return to life as normal for now.

He suggested trade-offs would have to be made if schools are to reopen in September, with some restrictions being reimposed. 

The packed Westbourne in west London on Friday night. Mr Jenrick has denied pubs will close

Families could be asked to avoid using public transport or meeting other households under one option. 

But Mr Jenrick said said the government had no plans to close pubs or another nationwide lockdown.

He said:  'I think you're right to say that reopening schools and getting our children back into the classroom with that direct face-to-face contact with their teachers will be a priority for the Government when we have to make those tough choices,' he said.

He said any fresh restrictions were unlikely to apply wholesale, adding: 'We don't want to do anything that is a blanket approach across the country.

'Our strategy is to manage this in a localised way with targeted action as we've done in Leicester, as we're doing now in the north-west.

'We will follow the data and look at options if we have to but that approach is the way we restrict in certain areas - it is difficult for those who live there but it provides greater freedom for the rest of the country, for businesses to reopen and for people to get on with their daily lives, and that has to be the way forward if we can.'

Robert Jenrick, this morning was asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs after a rise in coronavirus transmissions and said: 'We don't have any plans to do that'

It comes as shutting pubs again to allow schools to reopen risks putting millions out of work, shattering confidence and costing the economy dear, Ministers have been warned.

A top Government adviser yesterday said the move might be necessary as a ‘trade-off’ to stem a possible rise in coronavirus cases caused by 10 million children returning to the classroom.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said most people would prioritise ‘the health and wellbeing of children’ over going to the pub.

Kate Nicholls, of Hospitality UK, which represents pubs, restaurants and hotels, said shutting down ‘large chunks of the economy’ was a short-sighted strategy. 

‘We need to be focusing on collective efforts to drive down and control infections,’ she said, adding that the hospitality industry directly employs 3.2 million, with another two million reliant through supply chains. 

‘It’s simply too big to just switch off. We would be talking about millions of people unemployed, a major loss of economic activity.’  

Senior Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said it was a ‘false choice’ to say pubs should close to allow schools to open. The former Tory leader pleaded for Ministers to ensure both are kept open.

He told The Mail on Sunday that impending ‘economic Armageddon’ was a far greater risk than Covid-19. He said: ‘Of course, we must protect the vulnerable. 

We must protect people with co-morbidities.’ But he added: ‘The rest of us should be back at work by now and schools should be opening. 

'If we don’t get this economy moving, more people will die because the economy collapsed than will ever die of Covid.’

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