Restaurants and pubs may be able to begin serving customers outdoors from 22 June under new plans being drawn up to accelerate the revival of the hospitality sector.
The plans, being put forward by chancellor Rishi Sunak and five other ministers, will be discussed by the cabinet on Tuesday, according to the Financial Times.
It has spoken to senior officials who have confirmed that the target date could be brought forward from 4 July, although there has been no response from Downing Street as yet.
Meanwhile, having been alarmed by the prospect of millions of job losses in hospitality, prime minister Boris Johnson is also keen on cutting social distancing from two metres to one, if the move can be justified through scientific evidence.
The plans to further ease the lockdown include relaxing planning controls to allow pubs, cafés and restaurants to use outside areas; allowing up to 10 people to attend indoor weddings and funerals from early July; and permitting outdoor weddings for all faiths.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nichols told The Caterer that jobs could be saved if the government adopted one-metre distancing rather than two.
She said: "It is vital that reopening is done in the right way and with continuing support so that our industry can help rebuild shattered consumer confidence, play our part in the recovery and bring the nation back together safely over the coming months."
"If the science recommends it is safe to do so, we would urge the government to adopt the internationally recognised standard of one metre. Such a reduction would be a huge boost for the hospitality sector and prove critical to the survival of the vast majority of businesses, helping to safeguard over 800,000 jobs. It's the difference between a venue opening at around 70% of normal revenues or at 30% with the current two-metre rule in place, which is simply unviable."