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What the COVID-19 Winter Plan Means for Restaurants in England

Barring catastrophe, it appears restaurants will not have to close for lockdown again

Though the dining room has been closed since March, Singburi has served takeaway customers via collection throughout the pandemic Michaël Protin/Eater London

The Covid winter plan, which lays out the future of Covid-19 restrictions and measures, and the possibility of coronavirus lockdown in England, has very little in it for restaurants, which tells its own story: Barring catastrophe, restaurants’ uncertainty — at least, that which is directly caused by the pandemic — is over.

In an announcement alongside Sir Patrick Vallance and professor Chris Whitty, today, 14 September, prime minister Boris Johnson will outline both Covid “Plan A” and Covid “Plan B”; the former continuing many measures already in place, and the latter kept in reserve, comprising measures “which would only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS.” Those measures do not include local nor national lockdowns, because, “Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, it should be possible to handle a further resurgence with less damaging measures than the lockdowns and economic and social restrictions deployed in the past.”

The measures covered by Plan B comprise:

  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport.
  • Introducing vaccine certification in certain settings: with 500+ attendance indoors and 4,000+ attendance outdoors.
  • Reintroducing advice to work from home where possible.

None of these measures would be likely to have a significant impact on restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars, with the vaccine programme’s roll-out through to younger adults over summer having reduced concerns over younger hospitality workers having to return to work without yet having been given the chance to be vaccinated.

Booster jabs, in which third vaccine doses are. given to vulnerable groups — by age, medical profile, or both — will also be introduced as part of Plan A.

This does not mean that restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars will suddenly find themselves on the cusp of normality. The Covid-19 epidemic in England continues, and as furlough comes to an end on 30 September, with vacancies in the sector driving vacancies at large to their highest level since records began. But, in an industry which spent much of March 2020 to now either flip-flopping between open and closed, or waiting for the latter to fall, at least one key cloud appears to be lifting.