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What the End of All COVID Restrictions Means For London’s Restaurants

No mandatory isolation and no requirement for workers to inform employers of their need to self-isolate, but Living with Covid plan has led to renewed calls for government support for restaurants

Boris Johnson Announces Living With Covid Plan in Parliament Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

As of 21 February, the U.K. government has published its “Living with Covid” plan, in which it has set a timeline for all COVID-19 restrictions in England to be scrapped by 1 April. The plan has been welcomed by U.K. Hospitality, the trade body representing restaurants and bars in the U.K., though its publication has led to renewed calls for ministers to continue supporting those businesses hit “first, longest, and hardest by the pandemic.”

The “Living with Covid plan” practically affects restaurant workers and their employers in the following ways.

  • From 24 February, those with Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate
  • However, guidance will advise those who test positive to stay at home for at least five full days
  • Self-isolation support payments of £500 for those on low incomes will be cut
  • Those in contact with someone with Covid no longer advised to self-isolate or take daily tests
  • Workers will no longer be required to inform employers if they need to self-isolate

U.K, Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said, “It is heartening to hear that we are now moving to trading based on the safety measures that businesses have put in place and we hope that this will ignite consumer confidence in our sector and beyond.

“We are pleased to see that much of our 5-point plan for living with Covid has been taken forward by Government.”

Later, from 1 April, the new plan states that Covid tests will no longer be free for most people; the use of Covid passports will no longer be recommended, except for in the case of international travel; and employers will no longer have to consider Covid as a separate risk when working out how to keep employees safe.

While the practical implications of this plan are likely to have a moderate impact on restaurants — it ought to smooth or at least simplify some of the issues between businesses and their employees — its publication has prompted those who lobby on behalf of hospitality to renew its call for ongoing support in order for businesses to maintain their recovery.

“Hospitality was hit first, longest and hardest by this pandemic, however, and with costs rising across the board and a VAT rise due this April – just as the cost of living crisis is set to bite – businesses in the sector still need support,” Nicholls added in her statement. “At the very least, we need the government commit to keeping VAT at 12.5 percent beyond April in order for the industry to be able to play its full role in the UK’s social and economic recovery.”

So far, the government has not indicated whether it will, but restaurants have made plain how much it would help them through this year.