The Treasury has been accused of taking an irresponsible approach to the coronavirus epidemic after a backlash to a post on its official Twitter account that hailed Saturday’s scheduled reopening of England’s pubs.
“Grab a drink and raise a glass, pubs are reopening their doors from 4 July,” the tweet read, while a graphic carried the message: “Pubs are back”.
Many of those condemning the post, which was soon deleted, accused its celebratory tone of being in poor taste given that the virus has killed at least 43,000 people in the UK.
The tweet came as Leicester was put back under lockdown conditions amid a localised outbreak and fears were expressed about numbers of cases being seen in Greater Manchester.
The Labour MP Geraint Davies said: “This is wholly irresponsible publicity by the Conservative government, which will fuel a resurgence of coronavirus infection and death in England.”
According to the Financial Times, research conducted on behalf of the hospitality industry has suggested many people across the UK are concerned about the reopening.
“We know that currently 13 per cent of people who were frequent pub and bar goers are not going to go back,” said Paul Flatters, chief executive of Trajectory Partnership, which carried out the research. The FT reported on 12 June that about a fifth of customers were expected to go to the pub less often than they used to once they reopened.
Boris Johnson has been criticised over his confused messaging at a time of national crisis. While he warned people not to “overdo it” as he announced the lifting of some lockdown measures on 23 June, he also said: “Frankly, I can’t wait to go to a pub or a restaurant even if it’s not compatible with the diet that I’m on.
“I think people need to go out, I think people need to enjoy themselves and rediscover things that they have been able to do for a long time. I want to see bustle. I want to see activity.”
He told seaside towns to “show some guts” when asked how they might be expected to deal with the possibility of crowds flocking to take advantage of the hot weather and loosening rules. And he added: “It is very, very important that people who do represent seaside communities, places where UK tourists will want to go, should be as welcoming as they can possibly be.”
Shortly afterwards, he condemned people “taking too many liberties” as a major incident was declared on the south coast due to large crowds on the beaches.
The Treasury has not responded to a request for comment.