Prime minister Boris Johnson has given his clearest indication yet of when he expects the UK hospitality sector to properly begin opening its doors again – citing July as the timeframe the government is working to.
In a speech to the nation last night, Mr Johnson indicated it would be at least two more months before the hospitality sector, along with other public places, could start to re-open.
The government is planning a phased approach to coming out of lockdown
“Step three – at the earliest by July – and subject to all these conditions and further scientific advice, if and only if the numbers support it, we will hope to reopen at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.”
The conditions that Mr Johnson refers to comprise:
- Sufficient critical care capacity available across the UK
- Sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths
- Rate of infection decreasing
- Testing and PPE able to meet demand
- Adjustments to measures will not risk a second peak that overwhelms the NHS
The prime minister further announced a new Covid alert system, which will be determined by the rate of coronavirus infection plus the number of cases.
Run by a new joint biosecurity centre, the alert level will indicate how tough social distancing measures should be, with levels spanning one (the lowest, when no coronavirus cases are present in the UK) to five (where infection numbers threaten to overwhelm the NHS).
Mr Johnson said the UK has been at 4 on the scale but is now ready to take steps to reduce that to 3.
While he detailed that lockdown will continue, he said that the government is modifying its measures for step one of easing the rules.
“Anyone who can’t work from home, for instance, those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work,” he said, though he urged these workers to avoid public transport and instead either travel by car, bike or walk, as well as maintaining social distancing.
He also noted that the government is working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces “Covid secure”.
The restaurant sector has always been expected to be one of the last to reopen, with many operators currently planning for how sites might operate under social distancing guidance.