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England to close bars and pubs in second lockdown

Bars in England will be forced to shut on Thursday under new lockdown measures, with venues prohibited from selling takeaway alcohol.

Pubs, bars and restaurants across England must close on 5 November

During a news conference on Saturday (31 October), prime minister Boris Johnson announced new measures to mitigate the increase in coronavirus cases across England. On 30 October there were 12,317 new cases of Covid-19 across England. The lockdown is due to end on 2 December.

Johnson said: “In this country alas, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers.

“So now is the time to take action, because there is no alternative. From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons.”

Under the new restrictions, residents in England may only leave their homes for limited reasons, including education, work, exercise, medical reasons and shopping for essentials.

Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed, as will pubs, bars and restaurants. Hospitality businesses may continue to offer food takeaway and delivery services, however alcohol takeaway has been excluded under the new measures.

In an attempt to support businesses ordered to close, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the furlough scheme, has been extended until December. Under the scheme, employees will be paid 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 (US$3,230), by the UK government.

Johnson added: “I am under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure hardship this year. I am truly, truly sorry for that. This is why we are also going to extend the furlough system through November.”

Hospitality ‘pushed to the limit’ 

UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, warned that the cost to the hospitality industry “will be even heavier” than the country’s first lockdown in March.

She said: “Public health objectives are, rightly, the motive for the new measures, and for that reason we entirely support whatever proportionate action is necessary.

“The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks. The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come. The extension of furlough for a further month does help to protect our workforce during this difficult time.

“If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.

“Hospitality businesses have already been pushed to the limits, with many closures already. For those that have survived, viability is on a knife edge, as is the future of the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on hospitality, including through its supply chain, right across the country.

“It is critical that businesses are given a lifeline to survive the winter, before being given the support to enter a revival phase in 2021, as the nation’s prospects improve.”

Nicholls also called for a “clear roadmap” for the nation once it leaves the lockdown, which will be “vital” to businesses as they plan for the future. Nightclubs have also remained closed since March.

Nicholls added: “It is important to remember that some parts of hospitality, such as nightclubs, have not even been allowed to re-open. The support for those, now that potential reopening has been kicked further into the future, must be redoubled to ensure that they are not lost forever.”

Johnson will introduce his plans to Parliament today (2 November), they must then be approved by the UK government on Wednesday before they can be enforced.

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