Pub-goers may have to register to buy a pint

As part of an anticipated reduction of the two-metre distancing rule in England, due to be formerly announced by the government tomorrow, punters may have to give pubs their contact details in order to buy a pint.

The government is expected to announce proposals for how to safely reduce the two-metre social distancing rule for England in parliament tomorrow.

This is ahead of 4 July, when it is hoped part of the hospitality industry will be allowed to reopen. The hospitality industry has put pressure on the government to reduce the distancing limit, stating that it would not be financially viable for many businesses to resume trading under the current guidelines.

A number of UK restaurateurs, including Russell Norman of the Polpo Group and Will Beckett of Hawksmoor, have already expressed concern over financial viability if required to reopen with social distancing measures. They argued that measures including table spacing of two-metres would result in a dramatic fall in revenue. Hawksmoor has since revealed that it will reopen one restaurant in London in order to learn from the experience, and apply the practices in its other sites when ready.

The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that only a third of pubs in the UK would be able to reopen with two metres social distancing, compared to 75% with one metre.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, health secretary Matt Hancock, said: “We’re on plan, we will of course be setting out more details of that plan and in the plan it states that on around July 4 we will take further measures if it’s safe to do so.”

Hancock said he “wouldn’t rule out” people having to register before going to the pub, stating that there are other countries, for example New Zealand, that have taken that approach.

“That’s the sort of thing we’re looking at for how do you make it safe to open things,” he added.

“And things like wearing a face mask which reduces the transmission clearly, about how the seating is arranged, because face-to-face is much more dangerous than back-to-back and there’s more transmission than side-to-side.

“And also the sorts of things you can put in place to strengthen test and trace because the whole approach is to move as much as safely possible from a national lockdown towards targeted local action when we see an outbreak.”

Other countries, including France and Denmark, are operating with a one-metre rule, while in Germany and the Netherlands, it’s 1.5 metres.

The Times reported that the government’s plans are “likely to include” requirements for customers to register when they go to a bar or restaurant. As part of the registration, they must provide contact details for every member in their group, which will be held for several weeks in case someone in the pub later tests positive for Covid-19.

Venues must have a “guest register” containing information including the date and time of the guest’s visit, their full name, address, phone number and email address.

A government source told the publication that other measures could include the installation of perspex screens between tables and the prevention of multiple households having a meal on the same table, unless they can maintain social distancing.

Industry body UK Hospitality has urged the government to confirm 4 July as the reopening date, citing the results of a recent survey which predicted a slow and lengthy recovery for the sector.

It said that if the two-metre rule remains in place, a “worst-case scenario” could see trade in December at around a third of the previous year’s level. Even at one metre, it is only expected to be at just over half the level achieved in 2019.

Meanwhile in August, it is predicted that trade will decline by between 78% and 65% depending on the level of social distancing required in venues.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to reduce the two-metre distance. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and her Northern Ireland counterpart, Arlene Foster, are said to be considering a change.

However Sturgeon has pushed back the announcement of the exact date when Scottish hospitality businesses will be allowed to reopen until 2 July “at the earliest”. The Scottish government still intends to allow such companies to reopen from mid-July, however Sturgeon said more time is needed to examine “emerging evidence” that restaurants and pubs are “hotspots for transmission”.

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