'It has been a catalogue of ineptitude on an industrial scale'

The  Staff Canteen

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that hospitality settings would be allowed to reopen indoors in England as of Monday, May 17th.

Thanking businesses and individuals for the sacrifices they've made, the Prime Minister applauded the successs of the vaccine programme.

In his address, he said: "I can confirm today that we've met our four tests for further easing of the lockdown," with not a single death in England, Wales or Scotland from Coronavirus yesterday.

What is reopening on May 17th in England?

As well as pubs, bars and restaurants being allowed to open indoors, so too will museums, cinemas, theatres,Hotels, hostels and B&Bs, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums.

What rules are changing in England on May 17th?

From May 17th, people can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors; six people from a maximum of two households can meet indoors, with overnight stays allowed; caps will be lifted on people attending funerals and up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings; care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors. Social distancing will remain of order in social care, medical, retail, hospitality and business settings.

Will restrictions be lifted on June 21st?

Falling short of confirming the June 21st date for the lifting of all restrictions, the Prime Minister did say that the country was on track to do so.

"We must remain viligant," he reminded, reiterating his "hands, face, space... And fresh air" slogan. 

"Today we are announcing the single biggest step in our roadmap, allowing us to do the things we've yearned to do for so long." 

'A catalogue of ineptitude on an industrial scale'

While the news will come as some reassurance to many operators, others will likely continue to criticise what is seen as a slow lifting of restrictions going against scientific indications.

Appearing on BBC One's Question time last week, Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond said he had been part of the consortium - with NTIA chief Sacha Lord -  fighting for earlier hospitality reopening dates, deploring that the question was dismissed on the grounds that it was deemed "academic" because it was brought to the High Court so close to the 17th May.

He said: "All of the data are well ahead of that predicted by Imperial and Warwick in their models, I absolutely cannot see why hospitality is not open, and it's an immense disappointment for an industry that has spent huge amounts responding to Covid, that has lost a huge amount and employs 3 million people mainly under 25. They need to get back to work, it's a disgrace. The data and the science have at no point supported the government in this." 

While "the data we've seen has been very positive," MP and housing secretary Robert Jenrick acquiesced, meaning that we will be able to stick to the roadmap as it was first set out by the Prime Minister in February, but pushing back at the idea of accelerating the process.

"No-one is saying this is easy," he added, "none of us want to have these measures in place for a day longer than is necessary but I think it is right having done so much and had all these difficult decisions and privations to be cautious," stressing that the government is doing its utmost to support the sector financially with measures like the business rates' holiday, £18,000 grants.

Former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow implored that the public be scrutinous and that calls for an inquiry be seen through by the government.

He said: "The adage that we should be driven by data not dates has tragically been turned upon its head because in this case - as has been eloquently explained by Hugh - the reality is that the government has doggedly and dogmatically been driven by dates irrespective of the emerging data." 

Calling it a "minor but significant scandal" that the SAGE report "was eeked out at the last minute after the conclusion of the case," he said, "I think it should be emphasised that Hugh and his colleague lost the case on a technicality of unavailability of sufficient time to determine the matter before the 17th May." 

Based on the three million people employed by the sector, the £2,000 million in unpaid rent it can't currently pay off and the £200m lost by the sector everyday, he added: "The reality of the matter is, the government has stopped and started, gone hither and yon, broken its promises, misled people, one minute making the one commitment, the next minute the next, it has been a catalogue of ineptitude on an industrial scale - and therefore I can well understand why you are fighting shy of a public inquiry." 

"But a full public inquiry there should be, a full public inquiry there will be and when that full public inquiry takes place, we will see an unsparing spotlight on just how much has been done so badly over such a short period to the huge detriment of the people of this country." 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th May 2021

'It has been a catalogue of ineptitude on an industrial scale'