UK hospitality gets the green light as social distancing reduced

Miles Hurley Miles Hurley Uploaded 23 June 2020

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UK: In a statement this afternoon, UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hotels on July 4.

He further announced the earlier rumoured reduction of the two-metre social distancing rule to a “One metre plus” rule.   

The suite of announcements marks vital shift for the hospitality industry, who will now be allowed to begin conducting business again. The shift in the two-metre rule in particular has been highlighted as a measure to allow restaurants and pubs to continue doing business while staying safe.  

Businesses would still be limited, with indoor hospitality limited to table service while maintaining minimal contact. The Prime Minister also said businesses should keep contact details from customers in order to help NHS Track and Trace Manage the outbreak.  

Johnson said in a speech to Parliament: "We cannot lift all the restrictions at once so we have to make difficult judgments. And every step is scrupulously weighed against the evidence."

The new iteration of distancing rules still maintain two metres as the ideal distance for people, but allows one metre in situations where full distancing would be otherwise impossible. Two families will also now be allowed to meet indoors, so long as social distancing measures are still met.

The prime minister stated that guidelines for every reopening sector would be published at a later time, with some speculating later today.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer announced his support for the thrust of the measures but questioned the basis of the changes. In parliament, he advocated for frontline worker protection and questioned the efficacy of their track and trace system.

Hospitality industry leaders have praised the shift and noted that this is an opportunity for hospitality to rebound.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade body UKHospitality said in a tweet: “We are the heart of responsible socialising - it is what we do, it is in our DNA, so let's work with this to give our consumers confidence. And let's work with the Government to deliver a successful reopening for our core hospitality businesses so that we can ease the lockdown for those that remain closed and unable to open.”

Others have noted that this statement would allow them to start planning how to return to regular service. 

A spokesperson for the Old Mouse Hotel in Cornwall said: “What we'll do now is digest the guidance on how we should open safely and then look carefully at how we work to keep our guests, community and teams safe but in a way that doesn't diminish the essence of this brilliant spot in Mousehole. It'll take a few days and more, so what we won't be doing is rushing to open on 4 July itself.”

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