Government’s refusal to depart from “outdated” plan is “costing billions”. Responding to pubs and restaurants serving customers outdoors, IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon said:

“The hospitality sector faces five more weeks of pointless pain if the government refuses to act on the data. We have a lower rate of infection than any EU country and cases have continued to fall despite schools reopening. Vaccine uptake has exceeded expectations. The models which inspired the government’s ultra-cautious approach have been proved wrong and drastically revised. 

“If we were starting from this position, nobody would be calling for indoor hospitality to be banned. The government’s stubborn refusal to depart from an outdated plan is costing us billions.”

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Damage to high streets “won’t be repaired soon – if ever”. Responding to the reopening of non-essential shops, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton said:

“The reopening of non-essential retail is welcome, but the damage to Britain’s high streets is unlikely to be repaired soon, if ever. 

“We know that households have accumulated significant savings during lockdown. These savings could in theory generate a spending spree when shops reopen, but this is unlikely.

“Continued social distancing and other Covid-related restrictions (such as the inability to try on clothing), plus the absence of indoor cafes, restaurants, pubs and places of entertainment to round out the morning or afternoon will mean that the total ‘shopping experience’ will be a faint shadow of what it used to be.

“To give bricks-and-mortar retailing any chance, the government needs to accelerate the scrapping of all Covid restrictions and end business rates. It should be easier to repurpose high street buildings. This may involve some retail space being turned into housing, craft workshops, gyms and other uses. If footfall can be increased by such measures, some old-style retailing may yet survive. But the prospects are grim.”

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