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Pubs could soon return to normality with customers huddling around a busy bar if social distancing is scrapped.
Number 10 is said to be prioritising the end of social distancing over the ditching of masks, it has been reported.
But the country is facing an anxious wait to find out whether the next step of lockdown easing will go ahead on June 21, with some experts calling for the full unlocking of England to be delayed.
Christina Pagel, who specialises in health data at University College London and is a member of Independent Sage, said reopening should be delayed for a few more months.
A full reopening of hospitality is due on June 21, which is seen as essential for pubs and restaurants.
Ministers hope the table service only rules, which limit the number of punters in pubs, may be scrapped on that day, The Sun reports.
Insiders have said the end to the one metre rule is the "big ticket" goal, as it would be absolutely crucial for allowing businesses to return to normality.
Ministers have apparently prioritised this over other issues, such as masks.
However, coronavirus restrictions will only be eased depending on how the coronavirus situations looks in the middle of June.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said "there's nothing in the data that suggests to me that we should move the day" of June 21.
He added: "The caveat obviously is the data can change. So if scientific evidence data points to an increased hospitalisation rate, increased degree of risk, then we have flexibility to move that date."
This comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned “as many as three quarters” of new cases are the super-infectious Indian variant.
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Spots hardest hit include Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn but more hotspots are expected to pop-up as the variant spreads.
Pubs will be hit hard if reopening doesn't go as planned on June 21.
New figures showed that on May 17, when sites reopened indoor areas, there were 384 fewer pubs in England and Wales, reflecting a 1% yearly decline.
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