Sadiq Khan has given a qualified welcome to the government’s announcement that much of the hospitality and cultural sectors in England will be able to re-open from 4 July under relaxed social distancing rules, saying it will come as a relief to “thousands of businesses” and arts institutions but warning that the proper support must be given under a new, so-called “one metre-plus” social distancing requirement.
“The opening of venues across London will be welcome for those thousands of businesses who have seen their income dry up completely during this crisis,” the Mayor said, “and Londoners will once again be able to enjoy visiting the wonderful pubs, cafés and museums that make our city the best in the world.”
However, warning of a dangers of a “catastrophic second wave of the virus”, he called on the government to “act urgently” to bring in legislation and “comprehensive guidance” to how social distancing will be maintained and repeated his wish for face-coverings to be made mandatory “where social distancing may be impossible, including in shops and hairdressers.”
Announcing the next phase of lockdown easing, Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons earlier that “our principle is to trust in the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering the more we open up, the more vigilant we need to be.”
Cinemas, museums and galleries will be allowed to let the public in again, as will libraries, community centres and bingo halls. Pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to provide table service only indoors, and owners will be asked to retain contact details for customers to assist with contact tracing, should it be necessary.
Theatres and music halls too will be able to be re-open, but not to to host live performances. Hair salons and barbers will have to introduce protective measures, including visors.
Nightclubs, casinos, indoor gyms, conference centres, bowling alleys, swimming pools, nail bars and beauty salons and indoor soft play areas or children are among places that must stay closed for the time being.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group London First, said there will be “a collective sigh of relief” that the expected rule change has been confirmed, particularly for business in hospitality, retail and leisure”. She believes the two-metre social distancing rule “made sense at the height of the pandemic” but the coming changes “reflect the importance of other increasingly important factors like mental health and economic recovery”.
Whitbread also stressed that “the government will need to communicate clearly as things change and evolve during recovery, which is key to giving Londoners and businesses confidence.”
The City of London Corporation said today it is considering giving some street space over to restaurants and cafés in the Square Mile to help its hospitality sector return to business. Its planning and transportation committee has agreed that a “bespoke approach” must be taken to enable the resumption of outside trading following the temporary suspension of the 138 “tables and chairs licences” that had been in effect prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Photograph: Chinatown in London’s West End.
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