'I wish that we did not have to take this step but as your Prime Minister I must do what it takes to stop the spread of the virus'

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2020

As of Monday september 14th, social gatherings of more than six people will be banned in England, under new measures designed to be easier to understand and enforce than current restrictions and guidance.

People are currently allowed to gather in groups of up to 30 outdoors, which will, as of Monday be reduced to six and extended to cover meetings indoors including in pubs and restaurants . 

Until now, people were asked not to meet indoors with members of more than two families as a matter of guidance, not rule.

From Monday, individuals found to be breaching the rules could be fined £100, or up to £3,200 for repeat offences, under the government rationale, which is that putting a lower limit in law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press briefing to justify and clarify the new rules.

He reiterated the government's 'Hands, Face, Space' slogan, encouraging good individual practice, and said: "Since the pandemic began, we have asked you to reduce your social contact and limit your interactions with friends and family and I know that at times the rules have become quite complicated and confusing." 

"We've spoken to police officers about what they need for an effective enforcement regime," explaining that the rules needed to be simplified. 

The so-called 'rule of six', he said, allows for limited exemptions, he explained: gatherings larger than six will be allowed for households or support bubbles larger than six, for work or education purposes, weddings and funerals and team sports organised in a way that limits the spread of coronavirus.

"This rule of six will of course throw up difficult cases," he added, "and I wish that we did not have to take this step, but as your Prime Minister I must do what it takes to stop the spread of the virus and save lives." 

The Prime Minister also introduced the legal obligation for hospitality businesses to take guest's contact details, which was formerly only recommended. 

Finally, he added that the rule would be in constant review and would only be in place for as long as is necessary, and promised to publish a comprehensive list of exemptions to the rule before it is enacted.

He said: "I want to be absolutely clear, these measures are not another national lockdown. The whole point of them is to avoid another National lockdown. By bearing down on social contact and improving enforcement, we can keep schools and businesses open in the knowledge that they are Covid secure." 

Is Christmas cancelled?

On Wednesday morning Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that the ban on gatherings of more than six people will be in place for the “foreseeable future,” adding that "I really hope we can turn this round before Christmas. I think that, in a pandemic, Christmas is a long way off. Three months is a long time in a pandemic and I very much hope this strong rule, together with the local action we’ve taken in places like Bolton… I very much hope, therefore, this can work to do that by Christmas.”

On Tuesday, 08/09, 2,420 cases of coronavirus were reported in England, the third day in a row that the figure exceeded 2,000. The increase has largely been attributed to young people - arguably those who took advantage of the government's EOTHO scheme and have begun returning to their places of work. 

Meanwhile, chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty stressed the importance of following guidance when it comes to social distancing and hygiene.

“If we stop social distancing, Covid comes back,” he said. “Following these simple steps could make a significant difference in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 and help protect you and your friends, colleagues and family from the virus.”

What does this mean for hospitality?

Fears of how badly hospitality businesses will be affected by the new rules were quick to spread, as the sector struggles to recover from six months in lockdown. 

TV Presenter Gethin Jones stressed the importance of government stepping up to its responsibilities, in addition to individual actions to curb the spread of the virus. 

Meanwhile chief executive of UKHospitality questioned the logic of imposing new rules on restaurants, bars and pubs at the same time as financial support for the industry is drawing to a close, after the EOTHO scheme ends and the furlough scheme is set to.

Others outside of the hospitality industry pondered whether there was a link between transmission among young people and government policies to stimulate the economy.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2020

'I wish that we did not have to take this step but as your Prime Minister I must do what it takes to stop the spread of the virus'