Pubs and restaurants WILL reopen for indoor service despite rise in Indian Covid variant, minister says

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Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to welcome customers inside venues again from May 17 (PA) (PA Wire)
Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to welcome customers inside venues again from May 17 (PA) (PA Wire)

Pubs, restaurants and other parts of the hospitality sector will re-open for indoor service on Monday as planned despite the rise in cases of the Indian variant of concern, a minister has said.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the roadmap out of lockdown would happen as previously outlined for May 17.

“The four tests for Monday have been met,” he told Sky News.

However, he stopped short of saying the final stage of easing lockdown would happen on June 21.

The four tests to proceed with further relaxation of restrictions are:

* The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

* Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

* Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

* An assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

Mr Zahawi urged people to get tested if they have symptoms and if positive to self-isolate.

Surge testing by postcode, as has happened for the South African variant already in London, may be deployed to detect cases of the B.1.617.2 Indian mutation of the virus.

The minister added: “We are clearly moving at speed and scale with the vaccination programme and that’s the number one test in the four tests that we apply.

“We are about to reach about 56 million doses delivered, almost 36 million people with the protection of first dose.

“But, there are concerns in areas like Bolton and Formby and of course parts of London that the B.1.617.2 variant which was initially identified in India could be more infectious.

“We have seen infection rates rise from 520 last week to 1,313 this week.

“Hence why the surge testing and enhanced tracing is taking place, 800,000 PCR tests have gone out, 15 areas in England.

“But we think that the roadmap for Monday remains in place because the vaccines are delivering and vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and of course away from severe infection.

“So, we are confident of that and then of course we will continue to monitor.”

He stressed the UK had “stringent” border controls in places, amid claims that the Government was too slow in putting India on the “red” list to restrict travellers from there coming to Britain.

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