This week the government has announced that pubs will take on new opening restrictions, after the UK recently saw the biggest rise in coronavirus cases since May.
Closing pubs in the UK during certain hours is part of a new range of measures to try and reduce the spread of Covid-19 and prevent the country from going into a second lockdown with another wave of the virus. Other changes being put in place include a u-turn in the messaging around going back to the office, with people now told to work from home where possible, and a temporary hold on restrictions being lifted.
The new rules around pubs closing come after a month’s worth of new areas going into a localised lockdown and more countries being added to the quarantine travel list every week. Most recently, regions in the North-east of England have had measures implemented to stop the rise in cases, with those living in areas such as Northumberland and Newcastle unable to mix households indoors, while top holiday destinations such as Portugal and Greece were added to the list for self isolation upon return to the UK. Schools have also been given updated safety guidance.
But the latest changes, which will come into effect from Thursday September 24, have been made in response to a warning issued by the government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance. He said that there could be 50,000 new coronavirus cases by the middle of October, with 200 deaths per day in mid-November, if nothing is done to prevent the surge in cases. But with schools now back under new guidance and universities due to return in the coming weeks, the government has been quick to say that the priority is keeping education open and avoiding the situation that happened in the last lockdown.
So with this in mind, what changes are being made to pubs to ensure that schools can stay open? And will they be open for business in the coming weekends?
Are pubs closing again in the UK?
Those who have celebrated the reopening of pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues over the last few months will be pleased to know that pubs are not closing again for good in the UK. Instead, they will have restricted opening times so they will have to close after 10pm from Thursday. The measures on the new opening times are going to be in place for the next six months, the prime minister announced in the House of Commons earlier today.
Speaking to MPs, Boris Johnson said, “From Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table service only, except for takeaways. They must close at 10pm.”
The prime minister also added that this is the time that establishments must close, not the time that customers can call for last orders.
The curfew has already been implemented in parts of England and Wales that have recently come under a local lockdown. Areas with high numbers of cases, such as those in areas of Wales and the North of England, were forced to close hospitality venues by 10pm from Friday September 18 in a move to combat the surge in cases. While for the rest of England, a new law was implemented this month which prevents groups of more than six people from meeting in indoor or outdoor spaces – including in pubs and restaurants.
The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Witty has previously said on the issue of pubs closing for schools reopen, “The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong. I think what we’re seeing from the data from OMS and other data is that we have probably reached near the limit of what we can do in terms of opening up society. So what that means potentially is that if we wish todo more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things. And these will be difficult trade-offs, some of which will be decisions for government and some of which are for all of us citizens to do.”
Along with the shortened opening hours, it will now become illegal for pubs to offer service at bars. Instead, the prime minister intends to make table service compulsory at all hospitality venues to help with social distancing. To enforce these new rules, it’s thought that police will have the power to issue fines of up to £100 and businesses will be expected will be expected to uphold these rules or face fines themselves, as well as collecting details for track and trace. Those coming to pubs and restaurants will be expected to continue following social distancing rules and have been encouraged to keep up hygiene standards by washing hands frequently and using hand sanitiser where possible.
Upon announcing the new rules today, Boris Johnson said that “these rules, these measures will only work if people comply”.
“It now falls to each of us to follow the basics: wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social distancing and follow the rules. Then we can fight back against this virus, shelter our economy, protect the most vulnerable in care homes and hospitals, safeguard our NHS and save many more lives.”
What new social distancing guidelines are in place?
Pubs, restaurants and bars are considered some of the more tricky places for social distancing, due to the proximity of customers to each other and the levels of alcohol being consumed. However, more social distancing measures for pubs were put in place following so-called Super Saturday in July when large groups descended on areas across the country.
- All staff taking coronavirus tests.
- The venue being deep-cleaned prior to reopening.
- Limiting the number of people allowed inside.
- A one-way system around the building.
- One-in and one-out policy on using toilets.
So while there’s no guarantee that the Covid-secure guidelines will stop pubs closing in the UK in foreseeable future, they are staying open for now under the new guidelines.
What about the track and trace app?
To help with contact tracing and identifying spikes in areas around England and Wales, the government has made their new NHS COVID-19 app available to download from all app stores. On the app, you can scan QR codes at pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other locations to register your presence there with track and trace.
This means no more handing your details over at the venue if you prefer, as it can all be done via the app. It will also tell you if you have come into the vicinity of someone who has tested positive for the virus and you can receive notifications that will instruct you to self isolate in response.