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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (REUTERS)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (REUTERS)

Boris Johnson tells Britons to enjoy summer ‘sensibly’ as pubs re-open

Restaurants, hotels, cinemas and hairdressers will also be allowed to open their doors for the first time in more than three months on Saturday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to act responsibly as pubs prepare to re-open and the government lifts quarantine rules on travel for more than 50 countries.

Restaurants, hotels, cinemas and hairdressers will also be allowed to open their doors for the first time in more than three months on Saturday. Non-essential retailers have been allowed to open since June.

In a further easing of the lockdown brought in to contain the coronavirus, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will publish a list of countries that will be exempt from rules requiring arrivals to quarantine for 14 days. Those coming from the U.S., where infection rates remain high, will still need to quarantine, Shapps said.

“My message is really for people to enjoy summer sensibly," Johnson told LBC radio. “I hope very much that people will behave responsibly."

The prime minister is due to give a press conference later on Friday at which he will warn “we are not out of the woods yet," according to a statement from his office. “The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly," he will say.

Johnson is trying to jump-start the U.K. economy after the pandemic killed more than 43,000 people, pushing the country into what may be the worst recession in three centuries. Earlier this week, the premier accelerated 5 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) of spending, pledging to “build, build, build" in an effort to revive economic activity. Next week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is due to unveil more measures.

Sunak is focusing on preserving as many jobs as possible. His statement next week is likely to steer clear of big tax cuts and focus instead on a few targeted measures to help employment. Then, in the fall, he’ll outline a wider package of fiscal stimulus.

‘Targeted Strategy’

Labour Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said Sunak’s statement must create and protect jobs, ensure any economic bounce-back extends across the country, and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The chancellor should also pledge not to raise taxes or cut support for low and middle-income people during the recovery, Dodds said in a speech on Friday, adding that the wealthy should bear the brunt of any future tax rises.

Dodds also called on Sunak to extend the government’s furlough program -- due to end Oct. 31 -- in areas where local lockdowns are needed and in sectors of the economy that are struggling to restart, saying “the reward for months of sacrifice cannot be a redundancy notice."

“We need a laser focus on jobs, jobs, jobs," she said. “We know how expensive mass unemployment is both for individuals and for our economy as a whole."

Jobs

The government is already paying 80% of the wages for 9.3 million jobs at a cost of 25.5 billion pounds. That support will start to be withdrawn from next month as companies are forced to shoulder more of the cost.

The toll on jobs is already beginning to show: Airbus SE has said it plans to cut 1,700 U.K. roles and Swissport International AG more than 4,500. Shirtmaker TM Lewin is closing its high street stores and moving online, eliminating 600 roles in the process.

As many as 42% of firms plan to cut jobs in the next six months, with another 31% saying redundancies are possible, according to survey released by Make U.K., a lobbying group for manufacturers.

Quarantine Lifted

As ministers seek to protect jobs in the tourism industry, Shapps will unveil a list of countries and territories that the government considers safe enough to waive a requirement for arrivals in England to self-isolate.

From July 10, people arriving in England from 60 countries and territories including Germany, France, Greece, Spain and Italy will no longer have to observe a two-week quarantine.

The provisions won’t extend to people returning to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which will set their own rules.

“Safety must remain our watch word, and we will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with," Shapps said in a statement.

The government is still wary of a resurgence in coronavirus cases, and has pledged to deploy a “whack-a-mole" strategy to quash any localized outbreaks by having more targeted lockdowns. The central English city of Leicester was placed under such provisions earlier this week.

‘Will Not Hesitate’

When the pubs re-open, the government is keen to avert scenes like those on beaches last week, when warm weather lured Britons in their thousands to the coast and social-distancing broke down. On Thursday, the Health Department published guidance for the hospitality industry to help with the government’s test and trace program.

Pubs, hotels and restaurants were told to collect the names and phone numbers of clients and retain them for 21 days so that they can be contacted if anyone at the venue is later identified as suffering from the virus.

“The virus is still with us and the spike in Leicester has shown that," Johnson will say later on Friday. “If it starts running out of control again the government will not hesitate in putting on the brakes and re-imposing restrictions."

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