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The removal of most Covid-19 restrictions in England from Monday, 19 July, has been greeted with ‘huge relief’ by Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality as many businesses in the sector still battle for survival.
After Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ move towards easing controls, Nicholls said: “Confirmation that social distancing measures will be lifted next Monday brings huge relief for hospitality venues hoping to finally head back towards normal trading in England. For the first time in 16 months they will be able to move towards profitability, which is vital for the future of a sector beset by Covid-related debts.
“For profitability to be reached as soon as possible, it’s vital that businesses are able to reach their own solutions, to suit their settings, satisfy their risk assessments and optimise implementation costs while ensuring safety. The voluntary nature of the Government guidance should ensure that this is achievable.”
Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that restrictions will be phased out from 17 July, allowing for larger indoor events. From 7 August all premises can open, although face coverings will continue to be legally required in some settings and on public transport, although not in hospitality venues.
Northern Ireland has seen restrictions eased in the past week and from 26 July theatres and other indoor seated venues can reopen, along with conferences and exhibitions taking place. Masks have been required on public transport and shops since last summer and their use in public spaces such as hotels is due to be considered on 12 August.
In Scotland, First Minister Nichola Sturgeon announced an amended version of the country’s ‘Level 0’ criteria would operate from 19 July. Masks in some settings will remain mandatory and hospitality venues must close by midnight. But up to 200 people can attend weddings and funerals from Monday. The hope is that more restrictions will be relaxed or removed by 9 August.
Leon Thompson, UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director, said: “The move to Level 0 – with a few modifications – for all of Scotland is very welcome and allows some of our members to finally reopen after many, many months of closure. They will be relieved.
“However, hospitality continues to trade in a very difficult environment which will not improve until all major restrictions are removed. We had hoped to hear something definite on this. Instead, businesses burdened with expensive short-term debt will continue to struggle, unable to break-even whilst ongoing and seemingly endless restrictions continue.”
He said UKHospitality Scotland would continue to press for more financial support for hospitality businesses as members felt they were now set to fall further behind businesses in England: “A new package of support can make the difference between survival and closure for some businesses.”