Green light for reopening of businesses, but government plays it Very safe
The government has given the green light to shops, gyms, hairdressers, barbers, beauty and nail salons, and pubs with outdoor areas opening from 12 April, almost three months after bolting their doors.
But the sting in the tail of the government’s announcement was that there are no changed to social contact rules and many restrictions are still in place.
Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to 6 people or 2 households, and you must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or have not formed a support bubble with.
The government’s latest assessment was based on four tests:
The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
We can go on holiday too, in the UK only – overnight stays away from home in England will be permitted and self-contained accommodation can also reopen, though must only be used by members of the same household or support bubble.
Public buildings such as libraries and community centres will also reopen.
The majority of outdoor settings and attractions can also reopen, including outdoor hospitality, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances events.
Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol, and no curfew. The requirement to eat and drink while seated will remain.
People should continue to work from home where they can, and minimise domestic travel where they can, said the government. No globetrotting tourism yet.
Funerals can continue with up to 30 attendees. Weddings, outdoor receptions, and commemorative events including wakes will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open).
The government also announced a small number of pilot events can take place to pave way for larger audiences at sport, theatre and gigs this summer.
A Covid-status certification system will be developed over the coming months which could allow higher-risk settings to be opened up more safely and with more participants, said the government. Over the coming months, a system will be developed which will take into account three factors: vaccination, a recent negative test, or natural immunity (determined on the basis of a positive test taken in the previous six months).
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality said: “We’re delighted that hospitality can start to emerge from restrictions next week as planned. Hospitality is working very hard to be ready for the opportunity to trade with outdoor openings and to commence indoor trading on the 17th of May, before that long-awaited and landmark moment on the 21st of June.
“Given the on-going success of the vaccination rollout and the very low incidence of new infections and serious illness, we welcome today’s reassurance and certainty that there is no reason or need to deviate from this roadmap.
“We are also reassured by the comments of the Prime Minister regarding the use of vaccination certification in hospitality. This would have been very difficult to implement and placed a huge amount of additional stress on an industry that has suffered enough. Such a scheme would have hindered the ability of thousands of hospitality businesses to return to sustainable levels of trade, to recover and to be viable, and we urge the government to avoid this at every stage, and at all costs.”
Claire Walker, Co-Executive Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “This is great news. Many firms will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that they will soon be able to reopen their doors to customers. The last year has taken a heavy toll on firms across the country and they will be counting down the hours until they can begin trading and rebuilding their businesses.
“However, the route back to a full reopening of the economy is still a long way off, with continued uncertainty for some sectors about whether, and when, the next roadmap steps will be met, and many more firms asking questions, yet to be answered, about when they can open at full capacity or with fewer restrictions.”