23 June 2020
Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament as he announced that the Government had decided that the social distancing rules could be relaxed (in England) from 4 July.
He referred to a new “one metre plus” rule that would mean people maintaining a distance of one metre (where two was not possible) while combining this with other measures including face coverings, regular handwashing and not sitting face-to-face.
Mr Johnson’s statement that this meant that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers could reopen from the above date, it was greeted with a cry of “hallelujah” from one of his backbenchers.
It was also, if slightly more cautiously, welcomed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
Director General Adam Marshall warned: “While the relaxation of the two-metre rule will help more firms increase capacity, we are still a long way from business as usual. Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis.”
For the Institute of Directors (IoD), Director of Policy Edwin Morgan was equally careful.
He said: “This change isn't a panacea, and doesn't mean safety can take a backseat. If anything, the onus is now even more on directors to ensure rigorous mitigating measures are in place. In some cases, this won’t be easy or cheap. With many firms already strapped for cash, the Treasury should consider supporting companies to make the necessary adjustments, particularly as some haven't been able to access schemes so far.”
The Prime Minister had made clear that the proposed reopenings would come with a number of restrictions including venues being asked to collect contact details of customers for the NHS Test and Trace system and pubs and restaurants only being allowed to offer table service.
In other changes, up to 30 people will be allowed to attend a wedding and places of worship will be allowed to hold services. While cinemas, theatres, art galleries and museums can reopen, there will be no live performances.