They are deemed to offer the greatest boost to the crippled economy, but the smallest risk of transmitting the disease.
To ensure they are safe, all premises will first have to undergo revamps to ensure social distancing, by installing screens or big distances between tables.
The new thinking is laid out in a report – seen by HOAR – authored by Tory peer Lord Gadhia and GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Jonathan Symonds.
Calling for a limited reopening of high streets, the pair say Britain must “learn to live with Covid” as it can’t be fully defeated until a vaccine is mass produced in 12 to 18 months time.
Its emergence comes as stand-in leader Dominic Raab prepares to announce the lockdown will be extended by at least another three weeks.
As Boris Johnson continues to convalesce, the Foreign Secretary will chair a COBRA committee meeting tomorrow afternoon to rubber stamp the decision to extend the nation’s virtual house arrest until May 7, when it will be reviewed again.
With the lockdown to stem the contagion now set to last at least six weeks, ministers are desperate to find a safe escape route because of the economic disaster it is inflicting.
In their report, being circulated across Whitehall, Lord Gadhia and Sir Jonathan argue: “The initial focus for reopening the economy should be on sectors that have the greatest multiplier effects with minimum risks – such as coffee shops and restaurants which support agriculture.
“The property market is another that has wide multiplier effects.
“We need to avoid a stop-start economy which would sap public morale and damage business confidence yet further.”
Releasing younger generation back into the economy and re-opening schools should also be prioritised, they argue.
Italy and Spain have already started lifting some restrictions, and German leader Angela Merkel held talks today with regional leaders to start laying out a timetable.
Pensioners may only be allowed out to shop for one hour a day when the lockdown ends to limit their exposure to coronavirus, a World Health Organisation advisor has said.
Prof David Heymann, an infectious diseases expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also said younger people would also continue to have to stay away from them.
The Government again refused to spell out its thinking on how the lockdown will one day end.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded it publish an exit strategy by the end of the week.
Insisting “decisions need to be taken now” to plan, Sir Keir said he was “concerned” the public will lose faith in the government otherwise.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock: “Of course I understand there is a broad discussion about what next, but we’re very clear about what people need to do now, which is stay at home”.
No10 said it would be “a mistake” to signal to the public that they could relax before the epidemic’s peak has even been reached.
A former chief scientific adviser blasted the government yesterday for failing to order the lockdown quick enough.
Sir David King said he was “really saddened by the predicament we are in” and the UK should have responded “so much sooner once this epidemic broke out in China”.
Seeing the Cheltenham Festival go ahead with massive crowds in mid-March was shocking, Sir David added.
The extension comes as Burger King, KFC and Pret A Manger have all announced tentative reopening programmes in the UK as companies begin to look beyond the end of the coronavirus lockdown.
Pret, the coffee and sandwich chain, will reopen 10 sites near to hospitals or doctor’s practices from 8am on Thursday, while Burger King said it would reopen four sites: two in Bristol, one in Coventry and one in Swindon.
KFC has steadily opened 11 restaurants over the past week. All are for delivery or takeaway only.
The three are the first major restaurant chains to announce any re-openings since the government declared that all had to shut in late March to stop the spread of the disease.
They are all offering limited menus in order to ensure that social distancing rules can be followed within kitchens and employees are only required to work if they feel comfortable.
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