Social distancing in England is to be reduced from two metres to one metre plus from 4th July, providing a much-needed lifeline for restaurants that can reopen at greater capacity and also making it easier for more takeaways to accept walk-in orders again.
Announcing in the House of Commons today that pubs and restaurants can reopen from 4th July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus we can change the two metre social distancing rule from 4th July. I know this rule effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy even without other restrictions, for example it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating.
“Where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should, but where it is not we will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre plus, meaning they should remain one metre apart while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission. We are today publishing guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers and these include, for instance, avoiding face-to-face seating, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, providing hand sanitisers, changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.”
The move has been welcomed by the fish and chip industry with John Molnar, Fish & Chip Shop of the Year 2020 winner and owner of Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham, believing it will provide a huge boost to restaurants as they look to reopen. He comments: “It’s fantastic news for the industry but ultimately it’s got to be safe and people have got to adhere to it. Staff safety and customer safe are paramount.
“From a personal perspective, it will make a massive difference to our business and what we can generate. When we did the maths before, at two metre we would be trading at 35% and at one metre we’ll probably be able to trade at nearer 70%.”
For Mark Drummond, owner of Towngate Fisheries in Idle, Bradford, the announcement makes him feel comfortable enough to allow customers back into his takeaway, having permitted walk-ups and click and collect up until now.
He comments: “From next week we will be letting people into the shop rather than just collecting from the square in the doorway.
“In a lot of shops I know, the customer area isn’t big enough or wide enough for people to be in there and be two metres apart at all, whereas one metre apart for a short period while you’re placing your order and picking it is up is perfectly possible.
“Plus, I do think people are used to distancing now and I think wherever possible people will still keep two metres apart.”
The government is due to publish guidance to help restaurants reopen safely. This will include table service only, minimal staff and customer contact, and sharing of diners’ contact details with the NHS test and trace system.