The Prime Minister has today announced that pubs, restaurants, galleries, cinemas, hotels, hairdressers and many other businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors will be able to reopen in England from the 4th July. He has also said that indoor visits and overnight stays are now permitted between two households, and that for businesses who can’t practically enforce the 2-metre social distancing rule, it can be reduced to ‘1 metre plus’. This means it is dependent on other factors such as face coverings, ventilation and sitting side by side rather than face to face.
You can read the announcement in full here and the new detailed guidance will be published on the Gov.uk website this week.
Along with my Labour colleagues I welcome the principle of the new measures which will be a lifeline to many families, businesses and communities.
At this crucial stage in tackling the virus I hope that the Government will not repeat its previous mistakes, especially around how things are communicated and being transparent about the evidence.
Boris Johnson’s announcement means that many businesses will be opening for the first time in several months, with a big influx of employees newly returning to work. I believe the Government must prioritise protections and reassurances for workers, and proactively help businesses with resources and guidance to reopen safely.
We still need further detail and clarity on the announcement that all primary and secondary school children will be able to go back to school in September. We need all children back at school as quickly as is safely possible in order to prevent the educational gaps growing for the most vulnerable. However, the Education Secretary said only the other day that this couldn’t be done safely. We need to know what has changed to inform this new decision.
We have been told that these announcements are conditional and that further lockdown measures, particularly if there are regionally-specific outbreaks, may be required. If this happens, our already overstretched local authorities will be the ones who have to enforce it. The Government must outline what powers and resources they will provide to enable councils to do this effectively, as well as honouring their original commitment to reimburse local authorities for their losses due to coronavirus.
Finally, I am still extremely concerned about the gaps in our testing and track and trace system and lack of a functioning app. The Government must address this as an urgent priority.
If we are to ease the lockdown safely, more has to be done to get each individual component working properly. As the finer detail emerges, Labour will support these moves where they are sensible, but will carefully scrutinise the Government’s plans and challenge them in order to get it right.