With just three weeks ago before the mooted 4 July deadline for reopening, Dominic Raab has warned hospitality it could take “weeks” for safety guidelines to be produced after the government ordered another review of existing social distancing measures.
At the government’s daily briefing, Mark Andrews, from the Shropshire Star, asked about reducing the two metre rule down to one metre for the hospitality industry, what targets would need to be met and how close the government was to meeting them.
The foreign secretary replied that the PM “has commissioned a comprehensive review of the two metre rule, it will look at how it works in practice and the scientific evidence, and we will try and learn as much as we can from the international experience which differs, of course.
“In the meantime it’s important to emphasise that people must continue to keep two metres apart wherever possible, follow our stay alert guidance, and we expect the review to be completed within the coming weeks, and we’ll be able to say more than.
Asked a follow up question by Andrews about specific details that could reassure a devastated hospitality industry, Raab said the government had always maintained that when it comes to “bars, restaurants and others in the hospitality sector, if you look back at the roadmap on the 11 May, we said that at the earliest [they could reopen on] 4 July.
“So the review of the two metre rule will inform that, but we want to get those bars, restaurants, all of those small businesses up and running as soon as we can do so. But it’s got to be done in a safe and responsible way.
“We do need to have a review, we do need to look at the latest evidence. We need to make sure we are gauging the progress that we’ve made. We have seen progress across pretty much the entire UK across all regions, in getting a hold of the virus and bringing it down.
“If that continues, if we find that the measures that we’ve already taken can be done in a careful way, so that we don’t see the virus spike back up again, I think we’ll be in the strongest position to give reassurance to the hospitality sector.
“We don’t want a second spike that would be bad for public health, bad for the economy, that would be bad for public confidence. So we’re sticking to the roadmap, we are making progress, and if we continue to do so hopefully sooner rather than later we can provide some reassurance and some further guidance to that sector.”
Regarding a possible delay that might extend beyond 4 July, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls told MCA that operators “should not be waiting to find out the details of every single bit of it before they make their plans.
”The operators that have started doing delivery and takeaway have worked out what it is possible for them to do, how they are planning to operate with the covid-secure guidelines and we do have quite a lot of that published already, that will give you a feel for how you are approaching health and safety in the workplace so you can carry out your health and safety risk assessment now.
“Even at two metres the government guideline is currently is ‘two metres where it is possible to do so’. So where it’s not, you can look at alternative measures, side by side or back to back seating, additional hygiene and infection control, people should be looking through their own business and making that plan.
“In my view, if we’re going to push the 4 July and keep it simple, I think all of us need to start talking about that as the opening date that we’re working towards. That’s what the Premier League did to get it into the public consciousness.
“Consider working out what two metres would be, what one metre would be, and bear in mind what you need to do to reassure your employees and customers in the first couple of weeks when you need to get them back in, you may need to have more distance, more airiness, more space.
“So I do think people should be preparing now rather than waiting for the government to confirm all the details, because I have a sneaky suspicion that what will happen is they push everything back, they will wait until they’ve got social distancing guidelines that they can confirm, then say you can open next weekend, in which case lots of people will be caught out.
“If you want to be in that better position, start the process now. We’ve got a lot of information that’s available on the UK Hospitality website about the likely protocols that people will need to have to operate, and the measures that they might need for a health and safety risk assessment in order to get their staff back to work, and your first concern has to be about your staff.
“So if you want to get them in for training, if you want to get them in to get the site ready, you’re going to have to do that health and safety risk assessment ahead of the government confirming the details for you, so do it now.
JKS CEO Jyotin Sethi told MCA it had taken a “site by site approach, we’ve prepared for two metres, one metre, but also one and a half metres in case there is a kind of middle ground that’s found. And we are taking that in conjunction with the type of restaurant, we’ve got sites from 1,200 sq ft in Soho to 6,000 sq ft in the city.
“So, from a scenario planning perspective, we’ve got all the scenarios planned, we’ve got rotas done for staffing for each of those scenarios. Now we just need the green light to get on and get cracking.”
Safety guidelines for hospitality could be “weeks” away
With just three weeks ago before the mooted 4 July deadline for reopening, Dominic Raab has warned hospitality it could take “weeks” for safety guidelines to be produced after the government ordered another review of existing social distancing measures. At the government’s daily briefing, Mark Andrews, from the Shropshire Star, asked about reducing the two metre rule down to one metre for the hospitality industry, what targets would need to be met and how close the government was to meeting them.