- Government has extended powers it gives to local councils in England, allowing them to pubs and restaurants
- The powers, introduced last year, were due to expire next week but have now been extended until mid-July
- It comes after a 70-strong group of backbench Tory MPs demanded timetable for lifting of Covid restrictions
- Downing Street refused to rule out England’s third lockdown, due to end in February, could stretch to summer
- This week Government scientists urged ministers to delay reopening of pubs until May to slow Covid spread
Pubs and restaurants could stay closed until July after Government chiefs chose to extend the Covid lockdown powers given to councils.
The specially-created powers, which give local authorities in England the ability to close venues and tape-off public areas due to coronavirus, were due to expire next week.
But in a blow to millions of Britons hoping for a summer of reduced restrictions, Government chiefs have now extended the laws until mid-July, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The move does not mean lockdown has been extended. But it does mean the powers are in place should the Government decide to push back its current lockdown timetable.
Boris Johnson set a mid-February target for lifting restrictions when announcing the third-national lockdown earlier this month.
But the Prime Minister appeared to pour cold water on hopes of a mid-February easing of lockdown earlier this week by saying it was ‘too early to say’ when restrictions could be lifted.
Meanwhile, Downing Street refused to rule out the possibility of the current lockdown stretching beyond the spring and into summer.
The remarks came after frustrated Tory backbenchers called on the Government to release its road-map out of lockdown – as the UK’s vaccine roll-out total hit more than six-million.
In other Covid-19 related news today:
- The UK reported a further 30,004 Covid cases, down almost a quarter on last Sunday, and 610 more deaths today;
- It was another record day for vaccinations with 491,970 first doses and 1,043 second doses;
- Mr Hancock revealed that as of this morning three quarters of the over-80s have been vaccinated;
- The UK has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of Covid and nine cases of one of the Brazilian variants;
- Nicola Sturgeon faces fury for ramping up her independence drive during the pandemic as she threatened to hold a referendum without Boris Johnson’s agreement – and SNP MPs said they are ‘focused on undermining the union’;
- Nursing leaders have called for higher-grade face masks to be given to staff to protect them against highly transmissible strains of coronavirus.