No 10 explains rationale behind takeaway pints, protests and supermarkets

Coronavirus
Coronavirus (PA Wire)
16:43pm, Wed 04 Nov 2020
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Lockdown regulations will be in force across England from Thursday and Downing Street has explained the rationale behind supermarket exemptions, buying booze, protesting and attending religious services.

Here is what the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.

– Will supermarkets have to close off non-essential items to customers? 

People were angered in Wales after the Labour-led administration ruled that items deemed non-essential would not be permitted to be sold in supermarkets during its two-week circuit-breaker lockdown, forcing shop workers to tape off whole aisles of goods.

Coronavirus Wales (PA Wire)

The Welsh Government argued it was unfair to ask non-essential high street retailers to close, only to allow supermarkets to sell the same items.

But Number 10 has said it will not be following Wales’ lead during the English lockdown.

Asked whether shoppers would find fenced-off supermarket aisles when they visit over the next four weeks, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No. You’re familiar with how this operated in March, April and parts of May, and I would expect it to be the same again.”

– Why will you be able to order a takeaway coffee in person but not a pint from a pub?

Bars and pubs were relieved to discover they will not be shut down completely and will be allowed to sell alcohol to take away during the lockdown, having initially been told all sales would be barred.

But the regulations published on Wednesday included the caveat that takeaway alcohol would have to be pre-ordered online, or via phone or post, and could only be sold on the provision “the purchaser does not enter inside the premises” – restrictions that do not apply to coffee shops.

Pressed on why those rules were settled upon, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “The intention of that is to try to prevent people from gathering outside premises in advance in order to order alcohol.”

– Will it be legal to join mass demonstrations against the lockdown?

It will not be, according to Downing Street, although officials stressed that fines would not be imposed immediately for those who protest in groups of more than two people.

The first wave of coronavirus infections saw Black Lives Matter protests across the country in response to the death in the US of George Floyd.

Protest regulations (PA Wire)

But the Government has stressed that similar mass protests to demonstrate against the lockdown measures or other matters would “risk spreading the disease”.

“Protests are not exempt from the rules,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

“But as they have done throughout the pandemic, police and local authorities will engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules before moving on to enforce the law.

“The right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of our democracy but we are facing unprecedented circumstances and any gathering risks spreading the disease, potentially leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus.”

– Can I take part in a religious service to mark Remembrance Sunday? 

Despite former prime minister Theresa May questioning whether online services on Remembrance Sunday would be sufficient to honour the sacrifice of Britain’s war heroes, Downing Street has stood by its decision to make church and other religious services unlawful between November 5 and December 2.

Theresa May (PA Archive)

Remembrance services will only be permitted to take place outdoors, according to the Government.

No 10 said outlawing services inside places of worship was “vital in tackling the spread of the virus”.

“It is a package of measures which is designed to slow the spread of the virus and it was determined that while private prayer could be allowed, sadly it wasn’t possible to go any further than that,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

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