POLITICS
19/04/2020 10:51 BST | Updated 19/04/2020 14:40 BST

Pubs And Restaurants Will Be Last To Reopen After Lockdown, Confirms Michael Gove

Cabinet Office minister says government will look at "all of the evidence" before easing restrictions.

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Pubs, restaurants and hotels will be among the last to reopen when the government relaxes the coronavirus lockdown, Michael Gove has confirmed.

The Cabinet Office minister said on Sunday ministers would make a “balanced judgment” about what changes could be made to the current social distancing measures.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether hotels, pubs and restaurants would be back in business before the winter, Gove said: “Areas of hospitality will be among the last to exit the lock down, that is true, they will be among the last.”

Gove also said it was “not true” that the government had decided to reopen schools on May 11.

BuzzFeed reported on Saturday the government was considering a “three stage” relaxation of the lockdown.

According to the report, non-essential retail shops and industries could reopen in early to mid-May and other social distancing measures would be relaxed over the summer.

But people deemed to be most vulnerable to the virus could face strict restrictions until a vaccine is found.

The government has extended its initial three week lockdown by a further three weeks as it attempts to control the spread of the virus.

More than 15,000 patients have now died in hospital after testing positive for the disease.

Ministers are under pressure to detail an exit plan to end the lockdown, with Labour leader Keir Starmer calling for a “road map” out of restrictions.

Gove told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge this morning the government was “looking at all of the evidence” before it could think of easing restrictions.

“It is entirely understandable, of course, that there should be a public debate about how we approach these difficult choices,” he said.

Infectious disease expert Sir Jeremy Farrar said today he hopes some lockdown measures could begin to be lifted within around three or four weeks’ time if the numbers of infections and hospital patients drop “dramatically”.

Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images

The director of the Wellcome Trust told Sky News: “I would hope they will get there in three-four weeks time because it’s clear that the lockdown can’t go on for much longer.

“The damage it’s doing to all of our health and wellbeing, our mental health… the lockdown is damaging business and ultimately that’s damaging all of our lives.

“So the lockdowns cannot go on forever, we must lift them as soon as we can but we can’t lift them too soon and we can’t just make arbitrary dates.”

Gove also strongly defended Boris Johnson after a wide-ranging report in The Sunday Times claimed the prime minister had missed five meetings of the key Cobra committee in the run-up to the outbreak.

The report also stated a number of opportunities had been missed by the government in January, February and March to try and lessen the impact of the gathering crisis.

Controversy has raged over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, and low levels of testing as the disease took hold.

Gove said: “The idea that the prime minister skipped meetings that were vital to our response to the coronavirus, I think is grotesque. The prime minister took all the major decisions.”