So there it is: life may be regaining some semblance of its usual shape but June 21 – the so-called “freedom day” – is on hold as the Prime Minister calls on the country for a little more patience, telling the UK it must learn to live with Coronavirus.
The next stage of lockdown easing, which would see all restrictions on social contact eased and the return of nightclubs, as well as things like being able to order at the bar, has now been pushed back to July 19, a Monday.
Boris Johnson’s announcement means the current capacity restrictions on venues will remains, so restaurants, pubs and bars will still operate with fewer covers than usual. The late night and live music industries both remain in perilous trouble.
Pubs have warned they stand to lose £400 million amid the delays, and there are concerns that the end of the furlough scheme – the winding down of which has not been affected by the push back – will see some businesses in grave trouble. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of Industry trade body UKHospitality, said: “This four-week delay to lifting restrictions will cost the sector around £3 billion in sales, put at risk 300,000 jobs and have a knock-on impact on bookings throughout the summer and into the autumn.
“Simply put, if the supports provided by the Chancellor are not sustained and adjusted, businesses will fail and getting this far will count for nought.”
While ahead of the May 17 easing, Mr Johnson had told the country “we are not going to let this virus beat us,” his declaration this time came with a note of caution as numbers of the Delta variant continue to rise. However, he added that he was “pretty confident” of restrictions easing in July – tempering his positivity with a note that he could not offer a “cast-iron guarantee”.
That said, the news on the numbers front for Covid are broadly a cause for optimism: some 72 million jabs have been delivered, with almost 42 million of those first jabs, and the reminder second jabs. At the time of publishing, just three further people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid; the Office for National Statistics report that some 153,000 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began.
While guidelines have now been given, in order for anything to open, ministers must be satisfied that four key requirements are being met. The quartet of tests will look to ensure that: 1) the vaccine roll-out continues successfully; 2) there is evidence that the vaccine is effectively reducing the number of hospitalisation and deaths; 3) infection rates do not risk putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS; 4) the assessment of these risks is not fundamentally changed by new Covid variants.
When will restaurants, pubs and bars reopen?
Things are now opening and the usual run of things is being restored. The rules for hospitality are as follows:
May 17 (and continuing now until at least July 19)
Restaurants, pubs and bars may reopen for indoor dining.
Customers should check in to venues using the NHS app.
Masks must be worn on arrival and when leaving, as well as when away from the table (for instance, when walking to the loos).
Table service only – standing at the bar will not return until July.
Hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts are allowed to reopen.
Groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors.
Six people or two households can meet indoors.
Theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums may all reopen, including any refreshment areas or restaurants.
Socialising indoors in other people’s homes is allowed, in groups of six or a maximum of two households.
Big events can go ahead with maximum crowds of 1,000 people or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower.
Weddings are no longer limited to groups of 30, but will be restricted by social distancing in the venues, and stand-up drinks and dancing will not be permitted.
It is hoped that by June 19 all limits can be removed.
Nightclubs and live events will be allowed to return, and wedding venues will receive guidance on the numbers permitted.
This will be subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events of larger sizes.
For the full roadmap, head to this page.