UK: In a statement this afternoon, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs, restaurants and hotels in England will reopen on 4 July.
He further announced the previously rumoured reduction of the two-metre social distancing rule to a “one-metre-plus” rule.
The swathe of announcements marks a vital stage in the recovery of England’s hospitality industry, which will now be allowed to recommence operations. The shift in the two-metre rule in particular has been highlighted as a measure to allow restaurants and pubs to reopen and continue doing business while staying safe.
Businesses would still be limited in what they can provide, 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.
Johnson stated that the guidelines to reopen each sector would be published at a later time, with further announcements expected in the coming days.
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 the government’s track and trace system.
Hospitality industry leaders have praised the shift and noted the opportunity for the sector 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.”
Alex Limpert, the co-founder and CEO of property management company GuestReady, which has an office in London, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement today is positive news for the hospitality industry. Thanks to the nature of short-term rentals, allowing for limited contact with strangers, the sector is particularly well-positioned to ensure social distancing rules are being followed.”
Merilee Karr, chair of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association [STAA] and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, said: “As an industry, we are very happy that the government has made its announcement today. We have done a lot of work behind the scenes on the logistics for a safe reopening that will protect holiday guests and communities and should help reignite hospitality companies’ revenues to give a much-needed injection into local economies who depend on tourism.
“We have worked with government departments, industry bodies and associations across the UK to develop new, robust safety and cleaning protocols that should give consumers the confidence to book their holiday accommodation and travel safely to any property that meets them. Short-term rentals which adhere to these protocols offer a comparatively low-risk option for people looking to book a holiday in the current environment.
“Saturday 4 July is now a very important date that we can look forward to reopening with confidence and ensuring holidaymakers, hosts and communities all benefit from the reopening, confident that the right standards are being met,” she added.