Is it worth reopening restaurants until the two metre distancing rule is dropped?

The  Staff Canteen

Yesterday, the UK Prime Minister confirmed the British government's u-turn on reopening schools before the summer break. He suggested that in order to open schools in september, the 2 metre physical distancing rule would have to be lifted.  

Though he stressed that the September relaxation was to be the latest point at which it would be done -  putting the UK in step with many other countries including France, Singapore and Sweden as well as with the World Health Organisation's recommendations - for many restaurants, this could mean the difference between being able to open for the summer and having to remain closed.

For the government to relax the rules sooner would be a step away from the scientific consensus, but, as Sir Patrick Vallance pointed out in the same press briefing, asking people to stay two metres apart "isn't a rule, it's a risk-based assessment," adding that "it is wrong to portray this as a scientific rule that says it is 2 metres or nothing - that is not what the advice has been and it is not what the advice is now,"

Other protection measures will depend on the availability of PPE and ventilation in enclosed spaces, but the 2 metre rule is seen as crucial to the hospitality industry. 

Michael Deanes, chef and owner of the eponymous restaurant in Belfast, warned that 3.5 million jobs could be lost if the rule isn't dropped - seconded by UKHospitality's Kate Nicholls, for whom it is clear cut, as she says that millions of livelihoods will be lost unless the guidance is changed.

 

3.5 millions jobs could be lost if we keep 2 metre distancing @mrjamesob @UKHofficial @UKHospKate @HospUlster

— Michael Deane (@MichaelDeane61) June 10, 2020

Waking up to more sad news about redundancies in sector - being closed is not cost free and zero revenues are taking their toll. The best way to avoid more is to get businesses open as swiftly and as safely as possible and a 1m social distance will mean more can be re-employed

— Kate Nicholls (@UKHospKate) June 11, 2020

Meanwhile, MP Damian Green told the BBC's Newsnight that scrapping the guidance should be "the single biggest change" made by the government in the coming weeks. 

He said: "That makes a huge difference to many parts of industry, particularly hospitality businesses, restaurants, pubs, and so on.

"We've seen other countries do that, actually move from 2m to 1m, without any damaging effects so far."

However with infection rate just below the government's fatidic R indicator, a cautious approach is needed to balance the detriment to the economy versus the risk to public health. 

According to The Lancet, with no social distancing measures in place, the risk of infection from person to person is 13%, dropping to 2.6% at 1 metre and 1.3% at 2 metre. 

Chefs, restaurateurs, hospitality folk - could you reopen and hope to run a viable business with a 2-metre physical distancing rule in place? And 1 metre? We'd love to hear from you, please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2020

Is it worth reopening restaurants until the two metre distancing rule is dropped?