After another increase in COVID-19 case numbers across the England, London will join the rest of the country in coronavirus lockdown for the foreseeable future. Here’s what that means for London’s restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes — and their employees.
When does it start?
It comes into law from 00:01 on Wednesday 6 January, but for all intents and purposes has been in place since Tuesday 5 January.
From Wednesday 6 January, can restaurants open for dine-in customers?
Can restaurants open for takeaway by collection?
Yes. Hot food, cold food, and groceries can be sold.
Can restaurants do delivery?
Can they sell alcohol?
Only for delivery. Takeaway and click-and-collect alcohol sales are no longer allowed, unlike in November’s lockdown.
When will restaurants be allowed to reopen?
It’s not clear. March 2021 is the current timeframe, according to the government, but that could change.
What happens when it ends?
It’s not clear. Matt Hancock said that the previous tier system could not cope with the current case levels, but Boris Johnson mentioned “moving areas down the tiers” in his statement announcing lockdown. If London returns to tier four, restaurants will remain closed.
What support is available for businesses and employees?
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS or “furlough”) has been reset and extended to cover 80 percent of the wages of those unable to work (up to the value of £2,500) while a business is closed, until April 2021. The Local Restrictions Support Grant, which was also available in lockdown in November, amounts to £3,000 per month and is paid in £1,500 fortnightly instalments, is also available. And now, Rishi Sunak has announced one-off lockdown grants of between £4,000 and £9,000 for businesses, as well as a further £600 million in funding for local authorities.
What’s this got to do with the vaccine?
The government’s working theory is that while lockdown is in place, it can vaccinate around two million people per week. Under this timeframe, Johnson claims, the four most vulnerable vaccination groups would be protected by mid-February; moving at the same pace, Easter 2021 would look like a realistic date for restaurants to reopen for indoor dining; if they made it that far. But this is subject to many unknowns: whether or not the vaccine programme will meet that pace; whether or not funding and the upcoming March budget are sufficient to keep businesses going; whether or not test and trace is able to ally itself to the increased protection of the vaccine. The idea is that lockdown buys time and breathing room. The unknown is whether or not it will be enough.