Boris Johnson has today confirmed pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail across England will reopen on 12 April as a large section of the country’s economy is released from Covid-19 restrictions.
The government also confirmed that retail and hospitality businesses will be allowed to use new Covid vaccine certificates to determine whether people can enter their venues or not later this year.
The Prime Minister today confirmed that the country was on-track to meet the previously laid out roadmap out of lockdown, thanks in part to the country’s Europe leading vaccination programme.
Outdoor hospitality, non-essential retail, gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons, libraries and community centres will all be allowed to reopen from Monday.
Pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to have tables of a maximum six people from two households outdoors at a time, with everyone needing to be seated.
Johnson said the UK’s efforts in trying to get Covid rates down was “paying off”.
“We think that these changes are fully justified by the data which show we are meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown,” he said.
It comes as Covid-19 infections and deaths today hit their lowest point in the UK since last September, thanks to the effect of vaccines and months of lockdown.
More than 31.5m people have now received at least one jab of a Covid-19 vaccine, with all over-50s set to have been offered a jab by 15 April.
A further 26 people died of coronavirus today, taking the 7-day tally to 248 – a 44 per cent week-on-week drop.
The government also released an update of its review on Covid vaccine passports, with businesses set to be allowed to use them later this year when social distancing restrictions are eased.
The review said “Covid-status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives” until “the threat from the pandemic recedes”.
Johnson said the vaccine passports were “a way off”.
“I’ve spelt out the ways in which we might think of doing that but it’s not for steps two or three in any event,” he said.
“The principle of requiring some people to have a certificate to prove they are not passing on the disease, like surgeons who have to prove they are vaccinated against hep B or whatever, that can be a sensible one.”
The certificates would likely require people to have had a vaccine, a recent negative test or Covid antibodies to enter venues or shops.
“In the UK, businesses and other organisations are able to ask customers for proof of Covid status in order to access their premises, as long as they are compliant with equalities legislation,” the government said.
“The government believes that introducing a ban on this would in most cases be an unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe – although, as set out below, there may be exceptions where the Government needs to intervene to ensure equitable access to essential services.”
Responding to today’s announcements, UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls said: “Given the on-going success of the vaccination rollout and the very low incidence of new infections and serious illness, we welcome today’s reassurance and certainty that there is no reason or need to deviate from this roadmap.”