In July of 2020, the Health Protection Regulations (HPR) program was put into place by the UK government to minimize the spread of the virus by imposing temporary closure to certain businesses, such as pubs, gyms and restaurants.
Extended HPR program to potentially affect all non-essential businesses
Now, as reported in the Sunday Telegraph, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, during a lockdown review, that the HPR program's expiry date has been extended to 17 of 2021—meaning that pubs and other non-essential businesses could very well remain closed until then.
But not everyone is convinced this will be the case. Mark Harper, chair of Coronavirus Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, known for campaigning against restrictions currently in place said that:
Given the limited time allowed for debate this change in the law was little noticed. Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected by March 8, assuming the Government hits the February 15 deadline, the Government must start easing the restrictions.
Harper remains optimistic that the jabs will shield the population from the virus and force current restrictions to ease off in due time:
Vaccinations will of course bring immunity from Covid, but they must bring immunity from lockdowns and restrictions too.
Word from Boris Johnson
However, nothing has been set in stone as of yet. According to a source from the Department for Health, MPs voted to extend the regulations' end date in early January, saying that:
As we are currently in a national lockdown it was necessary to renew the regulations, which means they are automatically extended for another six months. However, these measures are still subject to the statuary review point.
During a televised briefing last Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked if the lockdown could be eased off in the coming months to which he replied:
I think it's too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of some of the restrictions. unquestionably will be a tough few weeks ahead. We're seeing the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas. There's no doubt it does spread very fast indeed.
Just over the weekend, the UK reported 60,000 new coronavirus infections and 2,000 deaths in total.