Talk of opening pubs in April is premature, health expert warns

14 February 2021, 12:08

Dr Bharat Pankhania has warned talking about pubs reopening in April is "premature".
Dr Bharat Pankhania has warned talking about pubs reopening in April is "premature". Picture: LBC/PA

By Joe Cook

Talk of pubs reopening in April is "premature" and pub bosses need to realise there is a danger of going "back to square one", a health expert has warned.

The warning comes amidst reports that pubs and restaurants will be permitted to serve people outside from April, if Covid-19 cases continue to fall.

As rates have fallen across the country, it has sparked hopes the ailing hospitality sector could be given a much-needed boost - and mean thirsty Brits can once again attend their favourite watering holes.

However, Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said the discussions were “premature, because we don't know what the state of cases will be in the country at that point in time.

Read more: PM to lay out roadmap for easing lockdown over coming months on 22 February

People may be allowed to have a pint outdoors in the spring.
People may be allowed to have a pint outdoors in the spring. Picture: PA

"It may be that the cases are low and that we have regained control,” he said, but warned: “What the executives of pubs need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one.

"And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.

"It is better to get it right than to prematurely bow to pressure and open up when you're not ready to open up," he continued.

"Whichever way you want to cut it, you drink alcohol to relax and have a bonhomie with your friends. One of the consequences of relaxing is that you drop your guard."

Read more: UK economy fell by 9.9% in 2020 - largest annual slump on record

The warning from Dr Pankhania stands in contrast to pub giant Young’s, who has called Boris Johnson to “do the right thing”, saying there is “no reason why pubs cannot open in April”.

In a letter to the prime minister, CEO Patrick Dardis wrote: "Young's is calling on the government to save our great British pubs and pull the country back from the brink of economic misery.

"We are exasperated at the obvious lack of interest and respect we are getting from this government."

Read more: Pubs and restaurants 'to be allowed to serve outdoors from April'

There could be a return to drinks outdoors from April, according to reports.
There could be a return to drinks outdoors from April, according to reports. Picture: PA

Mr Dardis referred to pubs sector CEOs resigning from a forum, adding: "We are shocked and appalled that the government is basing its decisions to keep the great British pub closed on unfounded and unproven statistics.

"As the vaccination program continues to gain incredible momentum and protects those most at risk, the Government's message to the pub sector remains despairingly bleak.

"We have been given no indication whatsoever that pubs will be allowed to reopen, nor any guidance about what restrictions may be in place when they can."

A Government spokeswoman said: "We are deeply disappointed that some pub leaders have decided to step back from meetings with ministers.

"As we plan our way out of restrictions, we will continue to engage relentlessly with the hospitality sector, as we have done throughout this pandemic, and our door remains firmly open.

"The Prime Minister will set out our plan to gradually reopen the economy in the week of February 22.

"We understand that this is an extremely tough time for the hospitality sector, but we are supporting business with one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of business support in the world worth £280 billion."

Read more: Clinically vulnerable and over-65s offered Covid jab from Monday

Responding to reports that people could be drinking in pub gardens in April, Mr Johnson told reporters: "If you don't mind I'm going to ask you just wait a little bit longer, give us some more time to look at the data about what's happening, look at the way the numbers are coming down, study also I think, very importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines - are they working in the way that we hope that they are?

"Making sure that they're really helping along with the lockdown to drive down the incidents. That's the key thing.

"I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you. I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious.”

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