In his statement delivered yesterday (22 February 2021) to the House of Commons on a roadmap for easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-step plan, each step of which will be subject to a Government review (against the following four tests) of the latest available data on the impact of the previous step:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
- evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
- the Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
Based on the Government’s “Covid-19 Response – Spring 2021” document (that you can download below), the four step plan includes the following items selected because of their potential relevance to our clients:
- From 8 March 2021:
- All schools and colleges in England will re-open and recreation or exercise in outdoor public spaces will be allowed between two people
- From 29 March 2021:
- Outdoor gatherings of either up to six people or two households will be allowed (including in private gardens).
- Outdoor sport and leisure facilities will be allowed to re-open and organised sport (for adults and children) will also be permitted
- From no earlier than 12 April 2021, the following parts of the economy will be permitted to reopen:
- Non-essential retail (including betting shops)
- Outdoor attractions and hospitality (including alcohol in beer gardens etc/takeaways)
- Indoor leisure facilities
- Self-contained holiday accommodation and domestic overnight stays
- From no earlier than 17 May 2021:
- The “rule of six” will be abolished for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people
- Indoors, the “rule of six” or two households will apply (subject to review)
- In the case of indoor hospitality (including pubs and bars), there will be no curfew and no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, although a requirement for table service will remain in force
- Indoor entertainment venues (including cinemas, casinos, bingo clubs and adult gaming centres ) will be permitted to reopen, although social distancing rules will remain in place
- The following capacity limits will apply for some large events (including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports venues):
- Up to 1,000 or 50% capacity (whichever is the lower) will be able to attend indoor events
- Up to 4,000 or 50% capacity (whichever is the lower) will be able to attend outdoor events
- Up to 10,000 or 25% capacity (whichever is the lower) will be able to attend outdoor seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and commemorative events
- Remaining accommodation (including hotels, hostels and B&Bs) will be allowed to re-open
- Limits on social contact will be further eased, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions (taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or are at greater risk).
- From no earlier than 21 June 2021 (and subject to review):
- All other limits on social contact could be removed
- Remaining closed settings (including nightclubs and SEVs) would be permitted to re-open
- All limits on weddings (and other ‘life events’) could be removed (subject to the outcome of the Government’s ‘scientific Events Research Programme’)
Also worthy of note for operators in the pub & bar, entertainment, hospitality, land-based gambling and leisure sectors is the following extract from the “Covid-19 Response – Spring 2021” document (at paragraphs 130 & 131):
COVID status certification130. COVID status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others.131. The Government will review whether COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety. This will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of COVID- Secure mitigations. The Government will also consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of this approach and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification. It will draw on external advice to develop recommendations that take into account any social and economic impacts, and implications for disproportionately impacted groups and individuals’ privacy and security. The Government will set out its conclusions in advance of Step 4 in order to inform the safe reopening of society and the economy.
This is a landmark victory for the hospitality industry. We are pleased with this judgement and that the court case compelled the government to remove the substantial meal requirement in their recent roadmap. We have continually stated that this measure actively discriminates against and unfairly impacts the poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of our society, and was lacking in scientific evidence to support it. We will continue to work with those most affected across the night time economy and hospitality sectors to ensure all measures imposed on the industries going forward are fair, not only to the operators and businesses struggling to survive, but to the general public. My legal team and I are already in discussions regarding the lack of evidence to justify the delay of the reopening of hospitality compared with non-essential retail and this is an area we will be updating on in the weeks to come.
This case highlighted the lack of real scientific evidence to support the government’s policy, and their failure to understand its discriminatory effects on BAME communities.