Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that restaurants, pubs, and cafes can reopen in England from 4 July. Speaking in the House of Commons this lunchtime, Johnson also confirmed that the social distancing rule in England will be reduced from two metres to one from that date, where it is possible to do so.
Johnson said that the two metre social distancing rule had prevented “all but a fraction of the hospitality industry” from reopening, but that from 4 July, restaurants and pubs would be permitted to return. The Prime Minister added that all hospitality indoors will be limited to table-service, and that guidance would encourage minimal staff and customer contact. It is thought that no standing at bars will be permitted inside pubs or bars.
People should “remain one metre apart, but while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission,” including face-to-face seating being reduced, face coverings, hand sanitiser, and shift patterns for staff. While he also said that people should remain two metres apart where possible, that does not appear to have any method of enforcement. Johnson’s overarching message, a theme of the coronavirus crisis, was one of guidance over legislation, which both presents apparent freedom and, of course, limits accountability in terms of enforcement.
The government’s rule change and lockdown easing is predicated on a need to reopen the economy in a nation that at the end of last week reduced the level of risk of COVID-19 from four to three. “[The government does] not currently believe that there is a risk of a second peak,” Johnson announced.
Restaurants were mandated to close by the government alongside all other non-essential retailers in the U.K. on 20 March. While opening for dine-in customers has been prohibited since then, many were able to continue operating for takeaway and delivery during the three-month lockdown period. In recent weeks, some of London’s most well-known restaurants have returned in a limited capacity; others have completely pivoted to new models.
Johnson said that guidance on Covid-secure “mitigation” safety measures which restaurants will be obligated to adopt as they reopen would be published later today. Those will outline “how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.”
The Prime Minister said that guidance would include measures such as: avoiding face-to-face seating (in offices, but also spaces such as restaurants), reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand sanitiser, and changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.
The government will also ask businesses to share contact details of customers, for track-and-trace purposes, despite the feted government app still not in service and, the fact, that Johnson claimed “no country” has a functioning track and trace app. This is of course, a lie.
More on those measures and the guidance soon.