Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said plans to allow indoor hospitality in England to reopen on 17 May remain "on track" following lockdown easing last week.
Speaking at the Master Innholders webinar event ‘Hoteliers – battered but not beaten', Dowden told UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls that sticking to the reopening roadmap was "essential".
"I hope I can reassure people watching today that we remain on track with the roadmap," he said.
"All is looking good at the moment for 17 May. Obviously we have to take a final decision on that once we see the full effects of the easing for stage two."
He added that the government was looking at allowing "as full a reopening as possible" on 21 June, the date Boris Johnson said all limits on social contact could be lifted.
This will follow several pilot events, including a trial reopening of Circus nightclub in Liverpool, which will require a negative Covid test result to enter. The initial findings of the review will be published before the end of May.
"If we can remove absolutely every remaining restriction we will remove every remaining restriction from 21 June," said Dowden. "We may not be able to do that in its entirety, but that's what we are aiming at, 100%, and we'll be looking at a range of mitigations to allow that to happen."
The culture secretary also played down the role vaccine passports could have in reopening and insisted no decisions on their use have yet been taken.
He said they could be considered for international travel, but was "acutely aware" of the costs and logistical implications in other settings.
"I clearly want, if [vaccine passports] are used at all, for them to be used in the fewest number of settings as possible, because I'm acutely aware of the cost and logistical implications and I want to make sure that they're used for as short a period as we possibly could. I think there there may also be value in them if we face problems in the autumn to ensure that we can continue to have reopening.
"We are seeking for the most minimal application possible and I'm well aware of the concerns the hospitality sector has… and that is all being factored in."
Dowden added that a tourism recovery plan was likely to be set out in May and that it was in the government's interest to help the industry recover.
"[Taxpayers'] money has been spent in such large sums to support the sector that it would be crazy to lose elements of the sector after we've reopened because we've not been there to support it," he said.
Nicholls also questioned Downden on whether the government's Turing Scheme student exchange programme, which replaced the Erasmus initiative after Brexit, could be used to help hospitality workers undertake stages in the UK and abroad.
He said he was "happy to explore" the issue with the secretary of state for business and was keen to ensure hospitality had access to the skills needed to go from "strength to strength".
The previous event in the Master Innholders' series saw education secretary Gavin Williamson interviewed by Nicholls on changing perceptions around hospitality careers.
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