BBQs and garden socialising with friends and family bubbles will get the green light next month

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Britons hoping to crack out the coals for a summer barbecue with friends and family could get the opportunity to as early as next month, it has today been revealed.

Small outdoor gatherings, including barbecues and garden parties, which have been banned since the start of lockdown, could be the next measures to be eased, according to reports.

The proposals, said to be brought up by Boris Johnson at a cabinet meeting yesterday, could be part of a wider plan to introduce ‘social bubbles’ as a way of giving people more social contact during lockdown, reports the Daily Telegraph.

A ‘social bubble’ scheme, already being used in New Zealand, which has had 21 coronavirus-related deaths compared to the UK’s 37,000, would allow groups of up to 10 people to mix outdoors.

The announcement comes as Boris Johnson last night paved the way for the ‘sale of the century’ as he gave the go-ahead for high street businesses to reopen – with retailers expected to slash prices in order to clear their stock which has been mothballed since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Small outdoor gatherings, including barbecues and garden parties, could be allowed from the end of June, according to reports. Pictured: People having a barbecue on a beach are spoken to by police

The proposals, said to be brought up by Boris Johnson at a cabinet meeting yesterday, could be part of a wider plan to introduce 'social bubbles' as a way of giving people more social contact during lockdown, reports the Daily Telegraph

The proposals, said to be brought up by Boris Johnson at a cabinet meeting yesterday, could be part of a wider plan to introduce ‘social bubbles’ as a way of giving people more social contact during lockdown, reports the Daily Telegraph

Meanwhile, the government is reportedly open to the idea of ‘social bubbles’, with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) understood to have advised top ministers that infection from Covid-19 is much less likely outdoors.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told The Telegraph that No 10 was ‘open to the idea’ of social bubbles saying the Government was ‘alive to the issue of social isolation and the need for mental wellbeing’.

Pub bosses urge government to ditch two metre social distancing rule to allow them to reopen 

Pub bosses are urging ministers to change social distancing rules so they can open up once again, according to reports.

They want the social distancing guidelines changed from keeping people two metres apart down to one metre apart to allow them to reopen.

Pubs have been shut since since lockdown began on March 23, and despite the government’s initial hopes of a June reopening, may not be able to open again until July.

But some pubs bosses are warning that they are too small to practically carry out social distancing, and will therefore have to remain closed.

Brewery chiefs say a one-metre rule would increase the number of pubs that could open by 120 per cent, according to The Sun.

Emma McClarkin, head of the British Beer and Pub Association, told the paper: ‘We are all missing the great British pub.  

‘We are working day in, day out alongside the Government to create a safe socialising environment for our staff and customers to return to.

‘Pubs with gardens should be in a great position to reopen at the earliest opportunity, and we hope that the Government will look again at revising the social distancing guidance.’

Last night, the Prime Minister gave all retail stores the green light to lift the shutters on June 15, as he attempted to bring the coronavirus-battered UK High Street back to life. 

Speaking at the daily Covid-19 briefing at Downing Street yesterday, he also gave the go-ahead for non-essential shops, including department stores and independent businesses, to reopen from June 15.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to reopen from June 1 as long as they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. 

The move will provide a welcome boost for businesses forced to close in March at a huge financial cost to themselves and to the Treasury, which has spent hundreds of billions of pounds keeping them afloat and their staff paid. 

But the announcement came as Mr Johnson faces massive political pressure to sack his chief aide Dominic Cummings. 

The timing is likely to fuel suspicion among politician opponents that he has pulled this positive news out of his hat to deflect attention from the huge political fallout.

The reopening is likely to spark a sales frenzy as shops try to emerge from the pandemic-induced wreckage of the economy, while consumers will be glad to leave the house.

Analysts believe there could be as much as £15billion-worth of stock which needs to be sold, meaning there will be ‘wall-to-wall’ sales until January.   

But because of movement restrictions it is unlikely to be an immediate free-for-all – and hospitality businesses like pubs and restaurants will remain closed.

That comes amid calls from pub bosses to cut the social distancing measures from two metres to a metre to allow watering holes to reopen once again. 

All shops wanting to reopen will have to follow new guidance, set to be released today, with Mr Johnson warning that the government will have powers to enforce the new rules if necessary.

And the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, tonight said: ‘Businesses will be taking a safe, proportionate and risk-based approach to returning to work, in close consultation with their staff. 

‘For many this will be an entirely new way of operating as they apply guidance to the practical realities of their business.’ 

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to reopen from June 1, if they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, the Prime Minister announced at the daily coronavirus press conference at Downing Street this evening

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to reopen from June 1, if they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, the Prime Minister announced at the daily coronavirus press conference at Downing Street this evening

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking at the conference tonight, Mr Johnson said: ‘Today I want to put the retail sector on notice of our intention to reopen shops so they can get ready to reopen. 

‘So I can announce that it is our intention to allow outdoor markets to reopen on June 1, subject to premises being Covid secure, as well as car showrooms which often have sufficient out door space.

‘From June 15 we intend to allow all other non-essential retail, ranging from department stores to small independent shops to reopen.

‘We will set out our formal assessment of the five tests that we set for adjusting the lockdown later this week as part of the three-weekly review we are legally required to undertake by Thursday.

‘But because of the progress we are making I can, with confidence, put the British people on notice of the changes we intend to introduce as we move to step two. 

‘We know that the transmission of the virus is lower outdoors and that it is easier to follow Covid secure guidelines in open spaces.’ 

Mr Johnson added that the government will today publish social distancing guidelines to help shops become ‘Covid secure’ before reopening.

He said: ‘This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps should be taken.

‘We will of course have powers to enforce these conditions, where it is required.’

Mr Johnson also put emphasis on consumers to keep safe themselves, by repeating his new ‘wash your hands, keep your distance’ slogan.

He added: ‘We will only be successful if we all remember the basics – so wash your hands, keep social distance, and isolate if you have symptoms – and get a test.’ 

From June 15, the government intends to allow all other non-essential retail, including department stores, to reopen. Pictured: Department store Debenhams

From June 15, the government intends to allow all other non-essential retail, including department stores, to reopen. Pictured: Department store Debenhams

Independent retailers will also be allowed to reopen from June 15, the government today announced. Pictured: A high street on the Isle of Man

Independent retailers will also be allowed to reopen from June 15, the government today announced. Pictured: A high street on the Isle of Man

Non-essential indoor shops will be allowed to open from June 15. IKEA (pictured) earlier this week announced plans to reopen 19 stores across England and Northern Ireland on June 1

Non-essential indoor shops will be allowed to open from June 15. IKEA (pictured) earlier this week announced plans to reopen 19 stores across England and Northern Ireland on June 1

IKEA stores have already opened in France. Pictured: A large crowd gathers for the opening of the IKEA store in Bordeaux

IKEA stores have already opened in France. Pictured: A large crowd gathers for the opening of the IKEA store in Bordeaux

The boost to retail comes as official data, released earlier this week, showed how retail sales plummeted by nearly a fifth last month as Britons stopped buying fuel and clothing amid lockdown.

The record plunge of 18.1 per cent month-on-month underlines the massive hit to the economy from coronavirus chaos.  

Full lockdown was imposed by the government on March 23, with non-essential shops ordered to shut.

Pubs may stay shut until July warns brewery boss

Punters hoping to sink a pint in a pub from next month have had their hopes dashed as it was claimed bars and beer gardens could be closed until July.

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of brewing giant Marston’s, which owns 1,400 premises, said any move to reopen establishments was at least five weeks off.

It will come as a fresh blow to drinkers who were told by the government watering holes could be open from June 1.

Premises have been allowed to operate takeaway services during the lockdown to try to keep businesses afloat.

Staff have been wearing personal protective equipment and ensuring customers are two metres apart in queues.  

Mr Findlay told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are desperate to know when we are going to be able to reopen our pubs as well.

‘We have had an indication from the government that the target date for some sort of reopening is early July.

‘It’s not clear at this point under what circumstances we’d be allowed to open, in terms of social distancing or what other restrictions might be in place.

‘So I think there’s a lot of work still to do to understand that at the moment and the economic consequences of whatever restrictions are still in place.

‘But early July would look at this point to be the soonest that we’ll see pubs opening in this country.’

In the first full month after the draconian curbs were introduced, clothing sales volumes were hit by a 50.2 per cent drop – having already seen a fall of 34.9 per cent in March.

Meanwhile, fuel saw a 52 per cent reduction, and food sales were down as the stockpiling frenzy eased, according to official figures.

One of the few areas to see an increase was off-licence sales, which were up 2.3 per cent on the month.

This could be due to the inability of Britons to go to pubs and bars – which are still set to remain shut beyond the date given by the government for the reopening of retail stores.

Punters had been given hope of a return to pubs and bars on June 1, after the government suggested the data for the reopening of watering holes across Britain.

But earlier this week, Ralph Findlay, chief executive of brewing giant Marston’s, which owns 1,400 premises, said any move to reopen establishments was at least five weeks off.

Meanwhile, almost all store types saw record online spending in April, the ONS said, as many retailers shifted to online-only trading.

The only sectors to see an increase in volume of sales last month were non-store retailing such as online and catalogue businesses, up 18 per cent on the previous month, and off licences.

Meanwhile, an industry insider has claimed warehouse storage space for high street retailers is more than 90 per cent full, meaning shops have reportedly been storing summer fashion in railway sidings and on former Ministry of Defence land – and it could spark a mass of sales.  

M&S’s price cuts will be as much as 50 per cent in what the outlet is billing as a ‘rainbow sale’. Ten per cent of the store’s takings will go to NHS charities.

Already, the firm is advertising online price cuts of up to 30 per cent on items including men’s shirts and women’s footwear and linen.

However, some shirts are being sold on the firm’s website with price reductions of nearly 50 per cent.

Topshop, Miss Selfridge and French Connection are also advertising discounts of up to 50 per cent, though some items of clothing are listed with even bigger reductions.

Some women’s vests being sold on the Miss Selfridge website are advertised at just £3, down from the normal price of £10. 

Non-stop sales are planned for the rest of the year in shops which are set to re-open after the coronavirus lockdown wrecked an entire season for fashion retailers. Pictured: A closed Topshop store in April, after the lockdown was imposed

Non-stop sales are planned for the rest of the year in shops which are set to re-open after the coronavirus lockdown wrecked an entire season for fashion retailers. Pictured: A closed Topshop store in April, after the lockdown was imposed

Analysts believe there could be as much as £15billion-worth of stock which needs to be sold, meaning there will be 'wall-to-wall' sales until January. Pictured: Sales advertised at M&S's Oxford Street store in January

Analysts believe there could be as much as £15billion-worth of stock which needs to be sold, meaning there will be ‘wall-to-wall’ sales until January. Pictured: Sales advertised at M&S’s Oxford Street store in January

Retail analyst Richard Hyman believes there will be ‘wall-to-wall promotions for the rest of the year.’

He estimates that between £10billion and £15billion worth of spring and summer clothes are sitting in shops and warehouses.

Earlier today, official government figures showed there had been 121 more deaths related to coronavirus across all settings, taking the official death toll to almost 37,000.  

It marks the lowest Monday death toll since the UK’s draconian lockdown was enforced on March 23 (74 deaths).

For comparison, 160 fatalities were announced last Monday and 118 were recorded yesterday.

But officials warn that death numbers released on Sundays and Mondays are usually significantly smaller due to a delay in processing fatalities over the weekend.

Department of Health chiefs also announced 1,625 more Covid-19 cases today, the first time the UK has recorded fewer than 2,000 positive tests in the space of 24 hours in almost nine weeks. Separate figures showed 8,800 Brits are currently in hospital being treated for coronavirus – down 12 per cent in a week. 

The Prime Minister’s announcement in the Downing Street press conference tonight came after his aide Dominic Cummings refused to apologise for driving 260 miles to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

Vote Leave maverick Mr Cummings – who is facing calls to be sacked – faced accusations of ‘double standards’ but he told a press conference in the Number 10 Rose Garden: ‘I don’t regret what I did.’

In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:

  • Britons descended on parks and beaches amid an expected 79F heatwave as they declared, ‘If Dominic Cummings can break the rules, we can too’;
  • An NHS hospital in the Somerset seaside hotspot of Weston-super-Mare was forced to stop taking new patients due to a high number of coronavirus cases; 
  • Newsreader Simon McCoy slammed his BBC colleague Gary Lineker for abusing his position after the Match of the Day host accused the Prime Minister of lying;
  • Schools face a long journey before they are able to return to normal, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he insisted classes must restart on June 1. 

The Department of Health’s daily death toll means the rolling seven-day average of victims has dropped to just 303 – the lowest since March 31 (274) and less than a third of the peak on April 14 (943).

It takes the overall official number of victims to 36,914 – but the true number is thousands higher because it only takes into account laboratory-confirmed cases, not the suspected deaths in other settings.

Of the 121 new deaths, 76 occurred in hospitals – most of which were in England. The remainder of the newly recorded Covid-19 fatalities happened in other settings, such as care homes.

England recorded 104 deaths, followed by nine in Scotland, seven in Wales and one in Northern Ireland – tallies that do not match up with the individual counts recorded by each of the home nations.

For instance, Scotland’s own health chiefs today announced three new deaths but yesterday recorded seven. Northern Ireland had the same issue, recording eight new fatalities today but only one yesterday.

The Department of Health's daily death toll means the rolling seven-day average of victims has dropped to just 303 - the lowest since March 31 (274) and less than a third of the peak on April 14 (943). Pictured: Nurses change bed clothes at the Mater Hospital Covid-19 recovery ward in Belfast

The Department of Health’s daily death toll means the rolling seven-day average of victims has dropped to just 303 – the lowest since March 31 (274) and less than a third of the peak on April 14 (943). Pictured: Nurses change bed clothes at the Mater Hospital Covid-19 recovery ward in Belfast

Of the 121 new deaths, 76 occurred in hospitals - most of which were in England. The remainder of the newly recorded Covid-19 fatalities happened in other settings, such as care homes. Pictured: Nurses at the Mater Hospital Covid-19 recovery ward in Belfast

Of the 121 new deaths, 76 occurred in hospitals – most of which were in England. The remainder of the newly recorded Covid-19 fatalities happened in other settings, such as care homes. Pictured: Nurses at the Mater Hospital Covid-19 recovery ward in Belfast

The issue is only thought to occur with Scotland and Northern Ireland because of a difference in how the data is collected. Wales announced seven new deaths today and yesterday.

NHS England figures also do not match the individual tally collated by the Department of Health for England (104) because the official toll includes deaths across all settings, not just in hospitals.

CUMMINGS REFUSES TO APOLOGISE FOR DRIVING TO DURHAM DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN 

Dominic Cummings today refused to apologise for driving 260 miles to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown as he claimed he had always behaved ‘reasonably and legally’ amid growing calls for the PM’s top aide to be sacked.

Mr Cummings said his decision to travel to the city to stay in a cottage on his parents’ land was the result of a ‘very complicated, tricky situation’ as he admitted he had not sought Boris Johnson’s permission to make the journey at the end of March.

Dominic Cummings made a statement at 10 Downing Street earlier today

Dominic Cummings made a statement at 10 Downing Street earlier today

The Vote Leave maverick has faced accusations of ‘double standards’, with the nation having been told to stay at home, but he told an unprecedented press conference in the Number 10 Rose Garden: ‘I don’t regret what I did… I think what I did was reasonable in the circumstances.’

Asked directly if he had offered to quit or had even considered it, he added: ‘No I have not offered to resign, no I have not considered it.’ 

Mr Cummings conceded that ‘reasonable people may well disagree’ with his chosen course of action but he was resolute in his belief that he had acted in an appropriate manner and had not broken the rules.

He insisted ‘I don’t think there is one rule for me and one rule for other people’ and blamed public anger at media reports ‘that have not been true’.

The usually scruffy adviser was wearing an open collared shirt as he confirmed that he had travelled to the town of Barnard Castle on April 12 after the end of his period in self-isolation with coronavirus.

He insisted he and his family had not walked around the town 30 miles from Durham and had only ventured 15 metres from the car to the river bank. He said the purpose of the journey was to see if he was fit enough to make the drive back to London.

He also said that he and his family had walked around a woods during their stay in Durham but that they were within his parents’ private property and that they had not come into contact with anyone else.

Meanwhile, he claimed he did not stop for fuel on the way up to Durham but he had stopped once on the way back.

He said: ‘Yesterday I gave a full account to the Prime Minister of my actions between March 27 and April 14, what I thought and did.

And the two use different measures for hospital deaths, with the DH relying on data from Public Health England, which uses several sources to provide an update every afternoon.

The figures published today by NHS England confirm that April 8 was still the peak of the crisis, with 891 hospital deaths recorded – up from the 59 that were announced today by NHS England.

Of the 59 new deaths recorded in England’s hospitals, 47 occurred over the weekend. Five took place on Friday, while the remaining seven victims succumbed to the disease between May 16 and 21.

It comes as Dominic Cummings this afternoon made a public statement to directly address claims he broke lockdown rules by travelling to Durham, Downing Street confirmed. 

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser today refused to apologise for driving 260 miles to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown as he claimed he had always behaved ‘reasonably and legally’ amid growing calls for the PM’s top aide to be sacked.  

Mr Cummings said his decision to travel to the city to stay in a cottage on his parents’ land was the result of a ‘very complicated, tricky situation’ as he admitted he had not sought Boris Johnson’s permission to make the journey at the end of March.

The Vote Leave maverick has faced accusations of ‘double standards’, with the nation having been instructed to stay at home, but he told an unprecedented press conference in the Number 10 Rose Garden: ‘I don’t regret what I did… I think what I did was reasonable in the circumstances.’

Asked directly if he had offered to quit or had even considered it, he added: ‘No I have not offered to resign, no I have not considered it.’ 

The intervention came after one of the government’s scientific advisers warned the ‘debacle’ over the lockdown journey had ‘fatally undermined’ the nation’s fight against coronavirus.

Professor Stephen Reicher, who is a member of the Government’s advisory group on behavioural science which feeds into SAGE, said the result of ‘undermining adherence to the rules’ will be that ‘more people are going to die’.

Mr Johnson is facing a furious backlash from ministers, Tory MPs and even bishops after he yesterday attempted to mount an extraordinary defence of Mr Cummings, staking his reputation on trying to protect his aide.

At a dramatic Downing Street press conference last night, the PM claimed Mr Cummings had acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ while making a controversial 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown.

Mr Johnson insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus. The PM’s defence of his aide prompted fury among Britons.  

Today, Boris Johnson admitted his top aide Dominic Cummings had created ‘confusion, anger and pain’ tonight as he again defended him from fury over his breach of lockdown rules.

The Prime Minister said Mr Cummings had acted ‘legally’ at tonight’s Downing Street news conference as senior ministers rallied around the beleaguered strategist, but added repeatedly: ‘You will have to make up your own minds.’

Meanwhile, sun-worshippers descended on parks and beaches today for the Bank Holiday amid an expected 79F heatwave, which could see parts of the country basked in temperatures hotter than Athens, Nice and Barcelona.

Crowds formed outside the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park, as beaches in Sussex, Essex and Dorset quickly filled up with visitors looking to enjoy the dry and sunny conditions forecast to last the whole day.

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