Pubs fail in High Court bid to open fully before May 17
Hugh Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns, and Sacha Lord, co-founder of Parklife and The Warehouse Project, challenged the Government’s timeline for the reopenings under its roadmap for a return to normality, which became law on March 25.
They argued there was “no justification or scientific basis for indoor hospitality to remain closed while other businesses such as non-essential retail have been permitted to resume trading”.
In a statement, the two men said despite orders to expedite the case, the final judgment was delayed until late last week due to a backlog in the court system. When the decision did come down, the men said, Justice Julian Knowles dismissed the bid as ‘academic’, saying any hearing would by now be unlikely to take place before May 17 in any event.
The judgment came, the men noted, just hours before a SAGE report emerged saying ministers had been advised “eating out in any food outlet or restaurant was not associated with increased odds” of catching Covid.
“This case is not ‘academic’ for an industry that is losing £200m every day it remains closed, for the over three million people who work in our industry, or for the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors forced into bankruptcy by Government measures,” Mr Osmond said.
“The judge said that Covid ‘justifies a precautionary or cautious approach on the part of the Government’. But when a crucial SAGE report is ignored, this goes far beyond caution, and questions need to be asked about when this advice was sought and why this important evidence was not disclosed.”
Mr Osmond said he was also “deeply concerned” the judge’s main reason for denying the bid “was because our claim ‘was not brought promptly’, even though we issued our claim days after the roadmap became law on 25 March, with the court taking a month to provide its ruling”.
The statement issued by the pair’s legal team added: “Having considered the ruling with their legal team, Osmond and Lord have decided that there is insufficient time to challenge it before May 17th. Osmond is reviewing other legal options in relation to the matter.”
British holidaymakers may have the option of jetting off to a handful of European hotspots from next month.
The European Commission proposed to ease restrictions on travel to countries in the bloc amid progressing Covid-19 vaccination campaigns and lower infection rates.
And the UK government’s “green list” of countries to which people can travel without having to isolate for 14 days on their return is expected to be released this week, although it is understood details are still being finalised.
Reports suggested the list could include about a dozen countries, although some newspapers suggested it could be fewer than 10.
Both The Times and The Guardian said destinations likely to make it onto the list for travel from May 17 include Portugal, Malta and Gibraltar, while the Telegraph said Spain, Greece and France could be added by the end of June.
It comes as Boris Johnson said the approach to foreign travel this summer will be sensible and cautious to avoid “an influx of disease”.
The Prime Minister said there will be “some opening up” on May 17, the next milestone in the Government’s road map for restrictions to lift, but that things must be done in a way “to make sure that we don’t see the virus coming back in” to the UK.
The European Commission said it is proposing “to allow entry to the EU for nonessential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine”.
It was not said which countries would be on its list, but one unnamed EU official said the UK remains a “question mark”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, meanwhile, expressed certainty over a “great British summer” ahead as he confirmed that a total of 50 million Covid-19 jabs have been given out across the UK.
The Government said one further person had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 127,539.
However, there is always a lag in reporting deaths – greater at weekends and bank holidays – and the latest figures do not mean that only one death has occurred in the past 24 hours.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 1,649 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
Some people believe the success of the vaccination roll out and the much lower death figures mean UK restrictions should end sooner, with Robert Syms, the Tory MP for Poole, telling the Daily Mail: “We need to push the Government to get on with it.”