Pubs and restaurants to reopen from next month as Boris slashes social distancing rule from two metres to 'one metre plus'

The two metres rule on social distancing will be relaxed to “one metre plus” from July 4, with people advised to take other precautions such as wearing face coverings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 12:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 2:39 pm

Pubs and restaurants will also reopen, he said, while two households will be allowed to meet indoors and stay overnight.

Hotels, cinemas, and hairdressers can also reopen, providing they are "Covid-secure" and theatres and concert halls can open but cannot stage live performances.

Nightclubs, indoor gyms, and beauty salons must remain closed "for now", Mr Johnson said, with guidance set to be issued later today.

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A sign on the Prom in Blackpool urging people to stay two metres apart (Picture: Michael Holmes for JPIMedia)

Measures firms will be asked to bring in include "avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand santiser, changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams".

Mr Johnson said every step in easing the lockdown is “scrupulously weighed”.

“We cannot lift all the restrictions at once so we have to make difficult judgments," he said.

“And every step is scrupulously weighed against the evidence.”

He added: “Our principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering that the more we open up, the more vigilant we will need to be.”

Mr Johnson said the fewer social contacts people have, the safer they will be.

He told the Commons: “I’m acutely conscious that people will ask legitimate questions about why certain activities are allowed and others are not.

“And I must ask the House to understand that the virus has no interest in these debates, its only interest, its only ambition is to exploit any opportunities to recapture ground that we might carelessly vacate and to reinfect our communities.

“And so there is only one certainty – the fewer social contacts you have, the safer you will be.”

Hairdressers will be told to use visors, while all hospitality indoors - such as eateries and pubs - will be "limited to table service and our guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact," Mr Johnson said.

“We will ask businesses to help NHS Test and Trace 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.”

While the social distancing rule will be relaxed to "one metre plus", people should still stay two metres away from others if possible, Mr Johnson said.

He added: "From July 4, provided that no more than two households stay together, people will be free to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation including hotels and bed and breakfasts, as well as camp sites, as long as shared facilities are kept clean.”

He continued: “From now on, we will ask people to follow guidance on social contact instead of legislation.

“In that spirit, we advise that from July 4, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out.

“That does not mean they must always be the same two households, it will be possible for instance to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, the others the following weekend.

“But we are not recommending meetings of multiple households indoors because of the risk of creating greater chains of transmission.

“The number of new infections is now declining by between two per cent and four per cent every day.

“Four weeks ago an average of one in 400 people in the community in England had Covid-19, in the first half of June this figure was one in 1,700.

“We created a human shield around the NHS and in turn our doctors and nurses have protected us, and together we have saved our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

Boris Johnson told MPs the commonsense and perseverance of Britons has “more than justified our faith” in them, as he delivered a Covid-19 statement to the Commons.

He said: “Since I set out our plan on May 11, we have been clear that our cautious relaxation of the guidance is entirely conditional on our continued defeat of the virus.

“In the first half of May, nearly 69,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK. By the first half of June that total had fallen by nearly 70 per cent to just under 22,000.”

While indoor gyms must stay closed, Mr Johnson said: "Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions will reopen if they can do so safely including outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, themes parks and arcades as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.

“Close proximity venues such as nightclubs, soft play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas will, I’m afraid, need to remain closed for now, as will bowling alleys and water parks.

“But my right honourable friends the Business and Culture Secretaries will establish task forces with public health experts and the sectors to help them become Covid-secure and reopen as soon as possible.

“We will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible.

“Recreation and sport will be allowed, but indoor facilities including changing rooms and courts will remain closed and people should only play close contact team sports with members of their household.”

Mr Johnson said “wraparound care” for school-age children and formal childcare will “restart over the summer”, adding in the Commons: “Primary and secondary education will recommence in September with full attendance and those children who can already go to school should do so because it is safe.

“We will publish Covid-secure guidelines for every sector that is reopening and slowly but surely these measures will restore a sense of normality.

“After the toughest restrictions in peacetime history, we’re now able to make life easier for people to see more of their friends and family and help businesses get back on their feet and get people back into work.”

Mr Johnson added the “virus has not gone away” and data will continue to be monitored, adding: “I must be clear to the House that, as we’ve seen in other countries, there will be flare ups for which local measures will be needed and we will not hesitate to apply the brakes and reintroduce restrictions, even at national level, if required.

“So I urge everyone to stay alert, control the virus and save lives.

“Let’s keep washing our hands, staying two metres apart wherever possible, mitigating the risks at one metre where not possible, avoiding public transport where possible, wearing a mask when you have to use public transport, getting tested immediately if you have symptoms, self-isolating if instructed to do so by NHS test and trace.”

British Chamber of Commerce director general, Adam Marshall, said: “These steps will enable more companies to reopen and will be cautiously welcomed in our business

communities.

“While the relaxation of the two-metre rule will help more firms increase capacity, we are still a long way from business as usual.

"Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis.

“A comprehensive test and trace system, including a mass testing regime, must be in place to realise the benefits that the easing of restrictions could bring to firms across the UK, many of whom are relying on the swift return of consumer confidence.

“Businesses also need a clear roadmap to recovery, including fresh support for the worst-affected sectors and geographic areas, and broader fiscal measures to get the economy moving again.”

Preston City Centre Business Improvement District welcomed the move to allow pubs and restaurants to reopen.

It tweeted: "Special measures will be introduced to provide safety for customers, but this is a positive step forward for livelihoods and business success - we’re confident this will be done safely by city centre businesses."

Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said: “Getting down to the pub for a pint with friends and family has been one of the things people have missed the most during lockdown, so it is fantastic news that people in England can start returning to their locals from 4 July.

“Understandably, this comes with a responsibility to do so safely and responsibly in line with the government’s guidance. CAMRA is urging all pub goers to follow the rules so that they can keep themselves, other pub goers, and bar staff safe.

“On recording customer details to help testing and tracing, this seems to be above and beyond what is being asked of other types of businesses. The Government need to make sure that this doesn’t disadvantage pubs and that the privacy of pubgoers is properly protected.

“Not being able to go to our local has made us realise just how important pubs are to communities, and in tackling loneliness and social isolation. That is why we need a second wave of financial support to ensure that all pubs – both those operating at reduced trade and those that cannot open safely under social distancing – can survive the next few weeks and thrive in the weeks and months ahead.”

Mike Hales of Imagine Inns, which has three sites in Lancashire, said he expected his sites to operate at around 60 per cent of capacity.

He said: "It's great news. The last few weeks have been really challenging.

"What we need to do now is make sure there isn't a second wave."

Imagine Inns has The Butlers Arms in Pleasington, near Blackburn; The Railway at Bromley Cross, Bolton; and now The Hawthorns, a restaurant and events venue at Blackrod, near Chorley.

Mr Hales also had the Top Lock at Wheelton but said he had now handed that back to the brewery Star Pubs and Bars because the social distancing rules would make it difficult to operate as it was a drink-led pub.

He was now going to concentrate on his three remaining venues through the summer.

“Thousands of restaurants, hairdressers, pubs, hotels, and campsites will be breathing a huge sigh of relief,” Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Blackpool-based Federation of Small Businesses said.

“We’d encourage everyone to support their local small businesses over the weeks ahead as more and more are able to reopen. This has been an incredibly difficult time, but there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. The fourth of July can’t come soon enough.”

Robert Wynne who has the Rose and Crown, the Brew Room and the West Coast Rock Cafe in Blackpool, said people in the hospitality trade were looking forward to welcoming their customers back.

He said they would have to look closely at the implications of the Government announcement and how to open the doors safely for customers and staff too.

He said: "The Brew Room and the West Coast Rock Cafe have both been really busy in lockdown doing deliveries. We have been delivering right the way across the coast from Fleetwood to Lytham.

"I think people have missed their real ales in particular. Despite that we are really looking forward to welcoming our customers back and given the number of calls we have had they are looking forward to being able to go out again.

"Individual pubs and businesses will have to look closely at how they can serve people safely and we will have to think about how to implement table service. Luckily the Brew Room is a big pub and we can take a few tables out of use to leave room. The Rose and Crown has a large outside area so that should be fine too.

"But we have to remember that staff have been away for a long time and some may be worried about keeping safe so we all have to bear that in mind too."

Dominic Leighton, landlord of the Three Mariners in Lancaster, said: "It's been gratifying to hear that pubs are finally getting to reopen their doors, though making that safe for staff and customers is now going to be the ongoing challenge.

"Performing table service and taking the details of customers should be a bare minimum within that, and I hope that people respond well to the changes.

"There's still a pressing worry that the UK isn't in the same position as other countries who've reopened hospitality though, and I think reducing the two metre rule will actually make things harder to stay on top of.

"Two metres is a relatively large distance, but once people are a few pints in I can see the 'one metre or more' spacing becoming problematic.

"As Mr Johnson states, we have to rely on the common sense of the British public, but alcohol and common sense don't always go hand in hand."