Pubs could open as early as April under lockdown-easing plans being considered by ministers.
Hospitality venues will initially be restricted to serving takeaway drinks so that customers are encouraged to stay outdoors, government sources told The Sun.
However the 10pm curfew that was introduced as part of the regional tier restrictions in September will be scrapped, it is claimed.
The so-called ‘Scotch Egg rule’ – under which alcohol could only be served with a substantial meal – is also believed to be on the way out after Boris Johnson ordered a “simplification” of the rules.
Ministers were said to be considering a reopening of “dry” pubs in April, according to the Daily Telegraph, but government sources have since suggested this is a non-starter.
“We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze,” one source told Sky News. “What would be the point of that?”
The government is due to set out its schedule for the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on 22 February, although the national lockdown is due to remain in place until at least 8 March.
It is expected to include a reopening of schools on 8 March and a loosening of restrictions on outdoor socialising and exercise the same month.
Ministers are hoping that a limited reopening of some hospitality venues can begin in April, with a full reopening of pubs by the end of May, according to The Sun. Outdoor venues will be prioritised because of the increased risk of the virus spreading indoors.
Calls for the easing of lockdown restrictions have gathered momentum after the government said all adults aged 50 and over would be vaccinated by May.
The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK has fallen to between 0.7 and 1, according to the latest government figures.
“These estimates mean we are now confident the epidemic is shrinking across England, though it remains important that everyone continues to stay at home in order to keep the R value down,” the government said.