The hospitality sector has urged the government to provide more clarity on how to operator in a Covid-safe way ahead of Monday July 19, when almost all social restrictions are due to be lifted.
On Monday July 12, health secretary Sajid Javid and prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the government would press ahead with lifting restrictions that have kept many hospitality venues closed and restricted trade in others, but confusion remains over whether masks should be worn in hospitality settings and if vaccine passport checks and track and trace should be used beyond next Monday.
Although businesses such as pubs, restaurants, bars, and clubs will not be legally required to ask guests for proof of vaccination, the PM has indicated that these venues will be “supported and encouraged” to use the NHS mobile phone app to check the vaccination status of customers.
Despite this, an official government report outlining the July 19 unlocking did not mention that venues would be pressured to conduct such checks, advising that these would be at the discretion of the business.
Carvalho told The Leaders Council: “Although we are really forward to reopening with our full capacity, the guidance we are receiving from the government is very unclear.
“There is still a lot of confusion across the industry around whether staff and customers should be asked to wear face coverings, whether staff testing positive should be required to isolate, and whether we will be enforcing customers to use test and trace on entry. We need clearer guidance on these matters so that businesses can adequately prepare.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry trade body UKHospitality, welcomed the news that mandatory checks on customers and their vaccination status would not be a legal requirement and that this would help businesses move back toward profitability.
Meanwhile, other business groups have echoed Terence Carvalho’s pleas for further clarity on how the sector can operate safely if Covid guidelines are to be discretionary only.
The Federation of Small Businesses has called for “clear workplace guidance” to avoid the lifting of restrictions becoming a risky “free-for-all” with discretionary safety advice simply ignored by the majority of customers.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry told The Guardian: “We cannot allow removing legal guidance to create a free-for-all, with any voluntary guidance ignored, which is why it is vital that clarity around the new state of play is given immediately.”
Claire Walker, co-executive director at the British Chambers of Commerce, added that although firms have been given the flexibility to enforce safety guidance at their own discretion, industry leaders needed more guidance on how to operate both safely and in the most cost-effective way.
She said: “Firms have been told to make their own judgments on which Covid secure measures to keep and which to ditch. But they are not public health experts and guidance from government is needed.”