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Fri 5th Feb 2021 - Government set to scrap rules making pubs serve ‘substantial meals’ with alcohol when they reopen
Government set to scrap rules making pubs serve ‘substantial meals’ with alcohol when they reopen: Rules forcing pubs to serve a “substantial meal” with alcohol are set to be scrapped when the lockdown is next eased. Boris Johnson wants to ditch the rule, which proved virtually unenforceable and left punters and landlords alike confused. The news comes with the prime minister due to set out a roadmap for lifting restrictions, which is set to start with reopening schools on Monday, 8 March. Limits on socialising and playing sports outdoors will be next in line and could be eased just a few weeks after that, reports The Times. Last year, the rules around pubs caused chaos as ministers struggled to clearly define what constituted a substantial meal. Michael Gove declared a Scotch egg would suffice, while some pubs got away with serving bowls of chips with a pint. Johnson will set out a date for when pubs and restaurants can reopen when he announces the plan for ending lockdown in a speech on Monday, 22 February. Under the blueprint, activities that can take place outdoors will be prioritised because that is where the virus spreads less easily. Therefore, outside markets are set to return before high street shops, and alfresco drinking and dining will be allowed before eating indoors. The rules will be applied nationwide after ministers decided not to return to the regional system of tiers when they lift restrictions. Government sources warned the plans are still “tentative” and, so far, only the earliest date schools can return has been agreed. Foreign office minister James Cleverly said “it seems things are heading in the right direction” for pupils to return next month. He said: “If that continues, it gets to the place where it’s safe to do so we’ll then give schools enough notice so they can organise themselves to reopen.” But he refused to be drawn further on which sectors might open up next. He said: “It is totally understandable people crave this move back to normality but, ultimately, the decisions about how we ease restrictions have to be guided by the science. They will take into consideration the needs of the economy, people’s mental health, the needs of our children – all these things are incredibly important.” It comes after professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the UK is now past the peak of its second wave. On Thursday (4 February), there were 915 deaths and 20,364 new cases recorded, with both counts down by more than a quarter on this time last week. But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said Downing Street favours a cautious rollback so we “never have to go back into another severe lockdown”. He said: “You’ve got to make sure that your vaccination programme has protected the top nine categories in phase one – that is 99% of mortality.” However, Mark Harper, chairman of the 70-strong Covid Research Group of MPs, said: “By the time you get to the end of May, you should be in a position to get rid of restrictions completely.”


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