Face masks and social distancing will no longer be compulsory in pubs and restaurants in England from July 19 – but that does not mean coronavirus measures will be done away with completely.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed this week that the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ would go ahead as planned on Monday, when most remaining legal restrictions will be lifted.
It means punters will once again be able to queue at the bar for a drink and be able to sit inside at tables of more than six.
While the updated government guidance is largely voluntary, it states that venue management and landlords will be expected to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments or risk breaching health and safety laws.
It means certain protective measures, such as sanitiser stations and one-way systems, may be retained after the July 19 reopening.
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘It is important that everyone understands that July 19 will not see face coverings and hand sanitiser disappearing from all workplaces, businesses and venues.
‘Although there may be changes, many businesses will be keeping in place some of the measures that have become familiar over the last 12 months, including face coverings in certain circumstances.
‘Although the Government has removed some specific legal restrictions – such as mandatory face coverings in indoor settings – as the guidance makes clear, businesses still have an overall responsibility to minimise risk to their employees and customers.’
So what measures can you expect to see remain in place?
England has taken a different stance on face masks to the devolved nations in no longer making it a legal requirement to wear one in most settings from next week.
But the Government said it ‘expects and recommends’ that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
The guidance urges venues to ‘consider encouraging the use of face coverings by customers and workers, particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet’.
It adds that ‘this is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces’.
Checking in with a QR code
Businesses and customers are similarly encouraged to keep displaying QR codes to allow customers to keep checking in with the NHS Covid-19 app.
This would help the government’s Test and Trace service monitor the spread of the virus, but will not be legally enforced.
Pubs, bars and restaurants which choose to retain the codes must also keep a ‘system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who ask to check in but do not have the app’.
Open windows and outdoor seating
Venues are told to ensure there is ‘adequate’ ventilation by opening doors and windows and using air conditioning or venting systems which do not re-circulate the air.
They should also ‘identify any areas of congestion’ and ‘consider if any reasonable steps could be taken to avoid this’, such as encouraging the ‘use of outside space where practical’.
Plastic screens and no propping up the bar
Despite punters being free to stand up and order a pint at the bar, the guidance suggests than venues consider ‘asking customers not to lean on counters when placing orders’ to try and minimise the number of surfaces they touch.
It also recommends that screens remain in place to separate customers from staff where doing so would not have an impact on ventilation.
Splitting staff into designated ‘teams’
Social distancing rules may be being scrapped, but the guidance still recommends minimising contact between staff.
They could do this by splitting employees up into ‘fixed teams’ to ensure workers are always on shift with the same colleagues.
Staff could also be organised so they work beside each other or back-to-back rather than being positioned face-to-face.
Sanitiser stations and signage
Although perhaps by now a matter of routine for many, venues should consider ‘advising customers and workers to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently’.
Tables should also be cleaned regularly, which is ‘particularly important before and after touching shared objects or surfaces that other people touch regularly’.
Risk assessments may also involve keeping sanitiser stations or one-way systems.
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