‘Too early to tell’ if hospitality can reopen on May 17 amid fears over new variant

A government minister has said it is “too early to say” whether all hospitality businesses can open on May 17, amid fears over new variant of covid.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 2:54 pm

When asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether the UK is on track for the reopening of all indoor hospitality on May 17 and if this will be dependent on vaccine passports, George Eustice the Environment Secretary said: “Well, it is too early to say.

“But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme.

“We have now vaccinated everybody over the age of 50 and this week they are offering vaccinations as well to those under the age of 50, starting with the 45 to 59-year-olds – so that bit is on track.

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Karine Makarova pulls a pint of Stella Artois behind the bar at the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, London as outdoor hospitality reopens

“But we are being a bit cautious here. So although we have now got 60% of the adult population vaccinated we do just have to keep a close eye on these variants of concern.

“Also, see what the impacts are of the easements we have just made, the loosenings we have just made, before moving to the next stage.”

According to the latest update from Public Health England, 77 confirmed cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been detected in the UK.

Scientists are working to gather information about the variant “as quickly as possible”.

Speaking during the morning broadcast round, Mr Eustice said there is no evidence that the Indian variant of coronavirus is able to “get around” the vaccine.

“It is a fairly small number at the moment. But it is something that we are watching.

“I’m told that there is no evidence at the moment that this particular variant is able to get around the vaccine, for instance, or indeed that it is necessarily more contagious than the others,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

Last Monday, April 12 saw the reopening of non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality as part of the lockdown road map.

The next stage, expected to be on May 17, will see indoor hospitality resume for groups of up to six people or two households and gathering of up to 30 people allowed outdoors.