Pubs and restaurants ‘to stay shut until July’ as Covid-19 laws extended

Extended lockdown powers have been granted to local councils which could see pubs, restaurants, shops and public places closed until the summer.

A law permitting local authorities to close or limit access to premises or outdoor spaces to prevent the spread of coronavirus was introduced last July.

The law was “quietly” extended until July 17 as part of a review of the third lockdown by Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier this month, the Sunday Telegraph has reported.

The move comes after Boris Johnson said it was “too early” to say whether the current restrictions are to be lifted before spring or even summer.

The Sun reports that Mark Harper, who chairs the Coronavirus Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said the “extension will be of great concern to those worried about their jobs and businesses”.

“Given the limited time allowed for debate this change in the law was little noticed,” said Mr Harper, whose group campaigns against what it sees as unnecessary restrictions.

“Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected by March 8, assuming the Government hits the February 15 deadline, the Government must start easing the restrictions.

“Vaccinations will of course bring immunity from Covid, but they must bring immunity from lockdown and restrictions too.”

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said the move was “surprising” given that “the large proportion of the population will be vaccinated by then”.

A Department of Health source said MPs had voted for these national restrictions earlier this month.

“The regulations that encompass the measures – including local authority powers – automatically expire after six months,” said the source.

“As we are currently in a national lockdown it was necessary to renew the regulations, which means they are automatically extended for another six months.

“However, these measures are still subject to the statuary review point.”

The move comes as a worrying study showed the number of Covid cases didn’t drop significantly in the first ten days of the national lockdown – which started on January 5.

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Borish Johnson was asked whether the country was looking at summer rather than spring for restrictions to be eased.

He replied: “I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of some of the restrictions.

“What we’re seeing in the ONS data, in the REACT survey, we’re seeing the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas. There’s no doubt it does spread very fast indeed.”