UK Health Secretary Summoned To High Court To Justify Reopening Shops Before Restaurants

UK heath secretary

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been summoned to High Court to justify the reopening of non-essential shops before pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve indoors.

The legal action was launched by Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond and nightclubs operator Sacha Lord, it was reported. They claim the Government has ‘failed’ to provide evidence for delaying the return of indoor eating and drinking.

The Mail Online reports: Pubs and restaurants in England will be able to lift the shutters of their outdoor areas to customers from April 12 – in line with the reopening of non-essential retail.

But the pair believe hospitality England should also be allowed to open indoor areas on the same day, rather than the current planned date of May 17. 

They claim the risk of Covid transmission is higher in shops than it is in pubs and restaurants.

Now High Court judge Mr Justice Swift has ordered that the Health Secretary ‘shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6 file and serve his response to the application’.

However, it is unlikely that Mr Hancock will attend in person. Officials from the Department for Health and Social Care are likely to attend on his behalf.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Osmond said: ‘The Government left us no choice but to take it to court.

‘This is a truly urgent matter affecting the lives of millions that simply cannot wait.’   

A spokesperson for DHSC told MailOnline: ‘As the Prime Minister has said, we want this lockdown to be the last.

‘We have followed the science at all times which is why we are easing restrictions in a way that is cautious and in response to the latest available evidence to reduce transmission, protect the NHS and save lives.

‘We have continued to support the hospitality sector throughout the pandemic, including our new £5 billion Restart Grant scheme, extending the furlough scheme and the VAT cut, and providing 750,000 businesses in hospitality and other sectors with business rates relief.’

The Sunday Telegraph says it has seen High Court documents which show the two businessmen are challenging ‘the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 to the extent that those Regulations provide for non-essential retail businesses to reopen before indoor hospitality businesses’. 

Mr Lord and Mr Osmond say hospitality bosses have spent millions of pounds making their businesses Covid secure since March last year.

They believe hospitality businesses should be allowed to open indoor venues with restrictions from April 12 – rather than the current planned date of May 17. 

From April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen.

But indoor hospitality and entertainment venues and the rest of the accommodation sector will not be able to open their doors until at least May 17.

Mr Lord and Mr Osmond had previously demanded the Government provide evidence for the decision, and threatened to launch a judicial review if they did not.  

However last month the pair announced that the Government had ‘failed’ to provide new information.