Both London and New York are preparing to move out of the lockdown phase of the coronavirus with guidelines released for how bars and restaurants can begin to reopen.
According to a press release by the Office of the Prime Minister, England is to relax its coronavirus restrictions in order to allow restaurants and bars to reopen on July 4th. The government is dropping the 2-metre social distancing rule in favour of a cryptic ‘1-meter plus’. Here’s all you need to know.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that Britain’s “long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end,” which means restrictions can be loosened. Caution and responsible behaviour by the public are urged by the government, which remains poised to impose restrictions should the virus spike again. Social distancing guidelines are still in place and the public is asked to ‘stay alert’.
A World Health Organisation expert warned against rushing back to ‘normality’ too soon. Dr Margaret Harris said the country had done well in bringing the number of coronavirus infections down, but added: “The lesson is for people to understand this is the year of living differently. Not, ‘OK, it’s over’. You haven’t just been let out of school.”
Restaurants and Pubs to Reopen
The decree on restrictions announced by the Prime Minister in Parliament will affect England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland due to announce their own measures in due course.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen in England, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines, from July 4th.
People can now enjoy staycations in England, as long as the weather holds, with the reopening of accommodation sites. Campsites, however, have not been permitted to reopen just yet.
Dinner parties return as people from one household can visit those in another from July 4th. They can even sleepover for one night if desired. However, it is recommended that multiple households do not meet indoors.
The much-maligned 2-metre rule is replaced and the government is now recommending a '1-metre plus' rule. That means staying at least one metre apart and taking other mitigating measures too. Guidance will be issued to firms as to what these measures should be.
Tourist attractions may also reopen if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres. Tourist areas have been encouraged to ‘roll out the red carpet’ for visitors.
Meanwhile, the City of New York is moving to phase two of reopening as the restaurant industry looks to get back on its feet. Nearly 3,200 restaurants have qualified, and are reopening for outdoor dining, including Melba’s in Harlem and Le Crocodile in Williamsburg, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Department of Health has released two sets of guidelines with advice on getting together and dining out safely, respectively. In the latter document, restaurants are required to screen staff for the coronavirus before shifts, make sure staff wear masks, keep tables six feet apart, promote physical distancing where lines may form, provide hand sanitiser where there is customer interaction, and increase cleaning of surfaces like faucets and counters.
Customers are asked to do their part and limit their exposure by making reservations in advance, browse menus online, practice social distancing and hand hygiene. They are also asked to wear masks and stay home if they are either sick or vulnerable to the coronavirus.
It isn't specified how the guidelines will be enforced, or whether the onus is on the restaurant to ensure customers are complying with them, which raises legitimate concerns for businesses faced with petulant or irresponsible behaviour by customers on their premises.