Any public predictions on hospitality reopening is “just speculation” and shouldn’t be taken as fact, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls OBE has warned.

Speaking at MCA’s The Conversation, Nicholls told attendees that as the Government pushes on with its vaccine roll-out, businesses are at “the period of maximum uncertainty,” and a clear roadmap for reopening won’t become apparent until at least the middle of February.

“My advice would be to take anything that any minister says on television, radio or in print, with a large pinch of salt,” she said. “It’s all just speculation, and there isn’t anything definitive for us to hang our hat on.

“The Government is pushing back against any discussion around when or how people might be able to reopen until they can get a handle on the vaccination numbers.”

Though current lockdown restrictions are expected to run until 31 March, and there will be no formal review date until then, Nicholls said that hopes for an Easter reopening will depend on the 15 February vaccination update.

“Government has a vaccination strategy to get all of the over 70s, all clinically vulnerable NHS workers, and care home residents and staff vaccinated by the 15 February, so that’s the magic date to look at next,” she said.

“If it hits that target it will mean that we’re on track to get the over 50s vaccinated by the end of March.

Whilst operators shouldn’t expect any concrete reopening information on that date, if Government reaches this initial vaccination target Nicholls explained it would enable ministers to turn their attention to businesses.

“That’ll be the first time that people at the heart of Government might be able to breathe a sigh of relief and start to turn their attention towards reopening without getting slapped down by the public health lobby,” she said.

“If they hit their target you can bet that Boris Johnson will do a press conference on Monday 15 February talking about the success of the vaccine programme, and potentially looking at next steps.”

In the meantime, as businesses remain in limbo without a reopening date, without fiscal rent support and without means to attract potential investment, Nicholls said operators must focus their lobbying efforts on short-term support.

“Putting more pressure on Government via its backbenchers is the key in the short term,” she said.

“Now is the time to exert maximum pressure on the backbench MPs to press for more support ahead of the Budget on 3 March. And then after that, it’s about exerting pressure for reopening.”