Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just confirmed in the House of Commons that the hospitality industry in England can reopen for onsite dining from 4 July as part of a range of measures to ease lockdown.
However, he underlined: “All hospitality indoors will be limited to table service and our guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact. We will ask businesses to help NHS test and trace to respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers, as happens in other countries, and we will work with the sector to make this manageable.”
Johnson had previously marked early July as a possible restart date when he announced an initial roadmap for relaxing coronavirus lockdown rules on 10 May.
In this afternoon’s speech, he detailed: “While we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS. We continue to meet our five tests and the chief medical officers of all four home nations have downgraded the UK’s Covid alert level from 4 to 3.
“Thanks to our progress we can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England. And each step will be conditional and reversible.”
Today he simultaneously revealed that social distancing will also be reduced from 2metres to 1metre on the same date, a move which could make a vital difference in the ability of many foodservice sites to survive or turn a profit.
Johnson said: “Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the 2metre social distancing rule from 4 July.
“I know this rule effectively made life impossible for large parts of our economy, for example, it prevented all but a fraction of hospitality industry from operating.
“Where it is possible to keep people 2metres apart, people should. But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of 1metre-plus, meaning they should remain 1metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.”
There still remains some scientific disagreement on the efficacy of 1metre social distancing to 2metres, but the UK now joins countries such as China, Denmark, France and Singapore in the lower figure.
Johnson himself acknowledged: “While the experts cannot make a precise assessment of how much the risk is reduced, they judge these mitigations will make 1metre-plus broadly equivalent to the risk at 2metres, if those mitigations are fully implemented.”
Many foodservice operators have turned to takeaway or delivery service throughout the lockdown, but will now be able to fully reopen, albeit with reduced capacity to comply with Covid-safe requirements. These include: reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, providing hand sanitisers and changing shift patterns so that staff can work in certain teams.
The Prime Minister also detailed that the government is today publishing guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.