The nation's pubs might not open again until early May, it has been suggested.
Our locals have been shut since the third national lockdown was announced in England just after Christmas, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that lifting that lockdown will be a gradual process.
It has always been the government's stance that schools will be prioritised, and that the lockdown will first be reviewed in mid-February, but worrying news has emerged from Whitehall that drinking houses may remain shuttered for much much longer.
The Sunday Times is reporting that boozers will be one of the last businesses to reopen, and that the government is currently eyeing up the bank holiday on May 3 as the preferred re-opening date.
A well-placed source reportedly told the Sunday Times: “The May Day bank holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening."
Experts believe that Brits are far less likely to stick to social distancing rules after a beer or two – and are keen to do as much as possible to limit the spread of the new mutant strain of coronavirus.
However, industry group CAMRA has warned that the latest lockdown could be the "death knell for many pubs”.
Camra chairman Nik Antona says that the new regulations mean that pubs’ remaining business will be destroyed by supermarkets – which are still permitted to sell alcohol.
"What is particularly concerning in the latest announcement,” he said, “has been the confusion around whether pubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences during this lockdown - as they have been able to previously."
He continued: "Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, for people to take home, were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs.
"This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licences that don't face similar restrictions.”
James Calder, the chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) chief executive agreed with him, saying: "This is simply the next blow after months of struggle for England's community pubs and small breweries.
"For the first time in lockdown, the Government intends to ban takeaway alcohol sales, which have been a lifeline to these small businesses.
"This reversal in policy directly discriminates against small businesses while allowing supermarkets to continue to sell beer from global breweries.”
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