Under fire from critics over the economic and social cost of his coronavirus restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will bring a grueling, second, national lockdown in England to an end next week.
But under a new set of rules announced on Thursday, which divide England into three tiers of restrictions, the access to bars and restaurants will differ drastically from place to place depending on the government’s assessment of the local threat posed by the virus.
And that means the more than 23 million people who live in the most restricted tier still face a ban on one of the nation’s favored activities: a visit to the pub.
With the holiday season arriving, Mr. Johnson has a difficult balance to strike in trying to tweak the exit from the lockdown in a way that is neither so stringent that many fail to comply, nor so lax that it allows the virus to get out of control.
Opinion polls generally show that Britons support tough measures and prefer to prioritize health over the economy. And the risk to health remains real.
But the political backlash against the new pub rules was swift as Graham Brady, who chairs an influential committee of Conservative backbench lawmakers, told the BBC that he would vote against the three-tier plan when it goes to Parliament for approval next week.
“I have severe reservations on so many different levels,” Mr. Brady said. “I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian. I think they have interfered in people’s private and personal lives in a way which is unacceptable.”
In Thursday’s closely watched announcement of post-lockdown rules, the government said it plans to allow areas in the second of the three tiers, including London and Liverpool, to permit bars to serve alcohol to customers who order food.
But throughout huge swathes of the country, including most of its other big cities like Manchester and Birmingham, the government wants tougher restrictions to be in place, with pub and restaurant doors kept firmly shuttered when the national lockdown ends on Dec. 2.
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