Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has relaxed the 2-metre social distancing rule to 1-metre for hospitality following the continued decline in the transmission of COVID-19 but the industry will have to put necessary “mitigations’ in place from 15th July in order to have the 1-metre zone.
She made the comments at her daily press conference which follows weeks of lobbying by the hospitality industry who although getting set to open, have pressed the government to relax the rules, in order to allow their businesses to be able to open viably on July 15th. The new 1-metre zone will not be in place when beer gardens open on the 6th.
Only last week the First Minister took part in a call with operators and trade bodies and apologised for calling pubs, bars and restaurants ‘hotspots’, and after the call, the feedback from operators suggests the First Minister was listening. It appears she was.
At the conference, she said, “Sticking to 2-metres has serious economic implications and an adverse economic impact can have an effect on peoples health and wellbeing. It is for those reasons that when we enter stage three of the route map we will have some exemptions for specific sectors where agreed mitigations must be put in place.”
The exemptions included hospitality, retail and public transport which she said could “operate within a 1m distance on condition that agreed mitigations are implemented.” She added, “To be clear these will be exceptions. The general rule, in law, will continue to be that businesses and services must take all reasonable measures to 2m distancing is maintained.”
The Scottish Government will now aim to work with the key sectors to agree the mitigations that will be required and to finalise detailed guidance. The guidance will be different for different sectors.
Said the First Minister, “Clearly the mitigations for a restaurant or bar will be different from those for a hairdresser. We will be publishing today the type mitigations that will be likely for each sector. In general, these might include improved ventilation, perspex screens, regulation of customer flow and seating plans that reduce transmission risk. for hospitality, and perhaps other sectors, mitigation will include the collection of names and addresses of customers to help with contact tracing where necessary. We will also insist on clear customer information. So if a business decides to operate at less than 2m they should provide clear signage informing their customers they are entering a 1m zone.”
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance http://www,scottishtourismalliance.co.uk said, “The First Minister’s announcement of the relaxation of the 2-metre physical distancing rule to 1 metre for certain sectors with mitigations is the news that the industry has been eagerly anticipating. The recent research that the STA undertook revealed that the majority of businesses in the tourism sector would be economically unsustainable if the 2-metre physical distancing rule remained; today’s news will mean that many hundreds of businesses that had not planned to reopen may now reconsider and plan to do so.”
Nic Wood, founder of Signature Pubs commented, “It is great to hear the news that hospitality, like other sectors of the economy, is firmly in the FM’s thoughts as we emerge from this period of closure. Signature venues would like to move to 1m spacing on 15th July for reasons of economic viability and our customers will be made aware that we have made this shift in policy and will need to assess their own comfort in visiting at 1m spacing. This will be in addition to all the extra safety precautions we are implementing across the estate: from Perspex screens to the use of technology for track and trace and a rigorous sanitisation programme. This news today shows a willingness from both sides – the trade and the Scottish Government, to deliver a workable solution. As a business, we are confident we are able to provide a safe, hygienic yet hospitable environment for our customers and staff to enjoy.”
Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said, “While we acknowledge that outdoor areas will need to maintain 2m social distancing for the present, this news will further help the rebuilding of the industry and gives Scotland’s pubs and bars the lifeline they need for their survival.
“Without this reduction it is estimated that two-thirds of our pubs and bars would not have been able to open and operate viably, leading to a large number of business closures and mass job losses.
“This announcement, however, does not help an estimated one-third of premises which will still be wondering when they can reopen.”
However said Marc Crothall, “We know that many people in our communities feel under threat and worried and it is incumbent on not only every tourism business, but every customer and visitor to retain that commitment to moving around and interacting safely to suppress the virus
“It should never be an ‘us and them’ situation in any regard; we really are all in this together and it is up to every one of us – businesses, customers, communities to act responsibly, safely and with consideration to those around us as the tourism industry starts to reopen.”
“We are only nearing the end of the first mile of what is set to be a very long marathon.
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said, “Easing social distancing rules will make a substantial difference to the viability of thousands of firms in Scotland. The move will also have a material impact across sectors such as leisure, tourism and hospitality that are desperate to get back on their feet.
“As these sectors and others start re-opening, the safety of staff and customers must come first to maintain confidence.