Hospitality bosses have welcomed the end of social distancing in indoor settings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated last night that step 4 of the government’s ‘roadmap to recovery plan’ would be activated on 19 July.
This means that hotels in England should be able to operate at full capacity from that date with no restrictions on groups of diners, and mask wearing and venue check in will become optional.
As part of a five-point plan Johnson revealed for living with Covid, Mr Johnson – who said the final decision would be made on 12 July – said: “We will change the basic tools we have used to control human behaviour. We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus.
“From Step 4 we will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We will allow more businesses to reopen, including nightclubs. We will end the one metre-plus rule on social distancing and the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising and when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed spaces.
“There will be no Covid certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event, although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification, and the NHS app gives you a Covid pass as one way to show your Covid status.”
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the news would be “celebrated” by hospitality operators and their staff across the country.
“For the vast majority of hospitality businesses, 19 July – if confirmed next week – will be the first time in 16 months that they have been able to realistically look to break even and move towards profitability.
“This progress is testament to the constructive and positive work that we have undertaken with government, to pave the way for this timely handing over of responsibility, shifting from enforced legal requirements to an onus on personal and business responsibilities, to ensure that we continue to safeguard our staff and customers in the tried and tested ways we know work best.
“Hospitality businesses will continue to provide safe and enjoyable experiences as we move into the summer and beyond and, in doing so, will also safeguard jobs, livelihoods and the venues we cherish so much.
“In order to do so, venues will need autonomy to act according to their own risk assessments, without local authority gold-plating, and a workable test and trace system that doesn’t demand blanket self-isolation like the test to remain-style system, to ensure that we can both protect our staff but trade with sufficient teams.”
“It will still be a long road back for businesses that have been forced to take on debt just to survive, especially with the reintroduction of business rates payments. Nevertheless, this is a critical move that will unleash a sector that is eager to play its part in the wider national recovery, to repay the support afforded it by the government.”
During last night’s press conference, Mr Johnson also revealed that the government will no longer be instructing people to work from home.