England is set to move into the next stage of lockdown easing, as the Covid-19 alert level for the UK was downgraded after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.
Boris Johnson has announced that from 17 May, a number of restrictions on social mixing will be lifted – enabling people to mix indoors and hug their loved ones.
The prime minister set out plans for the move into the next stage of England’s roadmap out of lockdown during Mondays’s coronavirus press conference. It comes as experts said that the nation is in a “strong position” to press ahead with the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
But what does all this mean for pubs and restaurants? Here’s everything you need to know.
When will restaurants reopen?
Restaurants, pubs, and cafes were allowed to reopen for outdoor dining in England from midnight on Sunday 11 April.
But from Monday 17 May, customers will be allowed to sit indoors when dining, but they must remain seated while ordering and eating their food. The rule of six or two households in a gathering still applies.
In pubs, no substantial meal will be required for patrons to enjoy a pint inside, but they must order, eat and drink while seated to avoid queues at the bar.
When customers are out of their seats - for example, to be shown to their table or going to the bathroom - they must wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
What have the experts said?
Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, said that figures for hospital admissions and new infections are similar to low levels seen last August.
But the member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) urged people to “act responsibly” as restrictions were lifted.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think it’s actually very important for our mental health and wellbeing that we can hug our loved ones, but to me the key message is, if and when this comes in, we need to remember that the pandemic hasn’t gone away.
“We are still a few steps away from normality, so it’s really great that we can hug our loved ones, but what we need to remember is we need to be a little bit careful.”
He said that the easing of restrictions could see the R number rise above 1, but added: “The key thing for me is what we want to avoid is hospital admissions going up and people dying going up.
“And if we can keep those out of the low levels they are then hopefully this resumption of hugging can be done safely and we can proceed again to the 21 June relaxation.”
When do restaurants and pubs open in the rest of the UK?
The lifting of coronavirus restrictions in other UK nations is also going ahead, albeit at a different pace in some places.
Wales will also see indoor dining return in restaurants, pubs and cafes from 17 May, three weeks after the venues were allowed to reopen and serve customers outdoors.
In Scotland, hospitality venues were allowed to reopen for indoor dining from 26 April, but they must close by 8pm and cannot serve alcohol to customers seated inside. They can serve alcohol outdoors according to local licensing laws.
In the meantime, Northern Ireland hopes to lift restrictions on indoor dining no earlier than 24 May, but this provisional date remains subject to review.