Positive signs about the removal of social distancing measures reported in the national press last weekend should be viewed alongside a note caution, warned Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality - but there is cause for optimism, she said.

Commenting on the news that the government may scrap the one-metre plus rule from 21 June, and the report from SAGE that the risk of Covid transmission in hospitality settings was relatively low, she said “you could have read into any of those reports anything that you wanted to”.

Speaking on MCA’s The Conversation, Nicholls said “one huge note of caution” was that it was the last weekend of campaigning before elections (in Scotland, Wales and England) take place on Thursday 6 May. “When politicians are in campaign mode, they do tend to say things that people want to hear,” she said.

“All you can do is look at the numbers,” added Nicholls. She said the figures published by the ONS at the end of last week did gave cause for optimism, with its survey suggesting over two thirds of the UK population has some form of immunity to Covid-19, both acquired and vaccinated.

The most important data, published at the end of last week, was new research on the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing transmission, she said. “That has been the big question mark which has led ministers to think they might need controls for longer.”

In terms of an update on the removal of social distancing measures, Nicholls said there was still “quite a way to go”, as it will be the last of four major review, including those by the global travel and tourism taskforce, while which tie into the review on Covid passports, before we hear more certainty from government.

She said there were still probably at least another three weeks of “febrile political atmosphere” while the government works through what it can do, how many restrictions it can lift and what happens post 21 June.

Commenting on the outcome of the Sacha Lord and Hugh Osmond court case, which found in favour of the government, Nicholls said it was still an important case for “holding the government’s feet to the fire”.

“The judge said it was academic just in terms of timescale. It is far from academic when the industry is losing £220m per day that it’s closed,” she said, adding that the government hadn’t won the court case, “it just been ruled out of time”.

To listen to this week’s The Conversation in full, click here