Restaurant and pub bosses are urging the Government to commit to a reopening of indoor hospitality in England on May 17 and not let plans be “derailed” by talks of vaccine passports.
Chief executives from big chains including JD Wetherspoon, Young’s, Greene King and Pizza Hut have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the road map out of lockdown to go ahead as planned and for coronavirus restrictions to be fully lifted from June 21.
Last week pubs and restaurants reopened in England for outdoor hospitality, but the 38 signatories warned around two-thirds were not able to do so and “none is breaking even”.
The letter reads: “We must be driven by data not dates – and the data say it is safe to confirm now the reopening of indoor hospitality on May 17 and the lifting of all social-distancing restrictions on hospitality on June 21.
“This is vital as Government support for hospitality tapers away then, and without it many businesses will be unviable.
“The Prime Minister set out the right path. He should stick to it and not let it be derailed by talk of vaccine passports in pubs and restaurants.
It comes as Environment Secretary George Eustice said it is “too early to say” whether all hospitality businesses can reopen on May 17.
He said: “But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme.”
Mr Eustice said the impact of the recent easing of restrictions will be assessed “before moving to the next stage”.
A Government spokesperson said: “We are continuing to make good progress in tackling the virus, with case rates and hospitalisations down and more than 42 million vaccine doses have been administered.
“But we cannot be complacent or lose sight of the risks this virus poses.
“That is why we must continue to take a cautious and irreversible approach to reopening and monitor the data ahead of each step of the road map.
“We are doing everything we can to back hospitality as it prepares to reopen, including offering pubs restart grants worth up to £18,000 – part of our much wider £352 billion support package.”
It follows an ongoing row over the potential introduction of Covid health certificates, or so-called vaccine passports, which could be used to access public settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission warned this week that coronavirus status certificates could create a “two-tier society” which discriminates against certain groups.