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Boris Johnson’s Reopening Plan Puts Further Pressure on Financial Support for Restaurants

The Prime Minister “hopes” schools will reopen by 8 March, but cannot give assurances for any sector just yet

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The Prime Minister Holds Coronavirus Press Conference Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Updated: 28.01.21, 11.01 with details of a Telegraph report outlining the government’s proposed “three-stage” plan for lifting lockdown restrictions.

Speaking in the House of Commons on the afternoon of Wednesday 27 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “it will not be possible” to reopen schools in England after the February half-term break, meaning that restaurant dining rooms and pubs are unlikely to open — as had previously been suggested — before April or May. Johnson did say he was hopeful school reopening could happen from 8 March.

Lockdown legislation is in place in England until 31 March, so it realistic to expect restrictions — at least on hospitality venues — to remain in place until then, with reopening with restrictions of sorts from April onwards. That Johnson is still unable to confirm when schools — the government’s priority with respect to reopening — can definitely reopen, suggests just how far off a timeline for the reopening of hospitality is at this stage.

A Telegraph report on the morning of Thursday 28 January said it understands “officials are working on proposals which could see [...] pubs and restaurants shut until May.” It comes as the government is expected to work on a three-stage plan to “release Britain from lockdown.” It says ministers have promised to publish a “roadmap” which would outline the lifting of restrictions on 22 February.

Although it was reported earlier today, Wednesday 27 January, that the Treasury would not extend the VAT rate cut beyond the 31 March, there is growing concern that if policymakers do not extend one or all of furlough beyond April, as well as the rent protections and business rates holiday beyond the end of March, then all the support so far offered to restaurants, pubs, and cafes could have been in vain, as the expiration of those protections while venues are still in lockdown could prove to be fatal.