When are restaurants opening and how will social distancing work?

An employee, wearing a protective face mask, serves customers in a restaurant
Eating out could look a bit different in future (Picture: Reuters)

 

The UK is easing its way out of coronavirus lockdown, with people waiting to hear when they might be able to eat out in a restaurant again.

While non-essential shops have now re-opened, many industries still remain closed in the wake of the pandemic – with restaurants among those that have been impacted, many currently open for takeaway or delivery only.

With Boris Johnson due to announce further easing of measures this week as the Covid alert level was reduced from four to three, could restaurants be opening up again soon?

Here’s what you need to know…

You’re going to have to wait a while longer for that meal out – as pubs and restaurants won’t be re-opening until July at the earliest.

Boris Johnson previously explained in his speech to the nation on Sunday 10 May that the ‘hospitality industry’ would not begin re-opening until the third phase of the roadmap out of lockdown – with 4 July being given as the earliest possible date.

That will also be subject to them meeting ‘Covid safe requirements’ in order to prevent a second spike in infection rates.

Speaking to Sky News Dominic Raab said at the time: ‘From the earliest, June 1, we’ll look at non-essential retail and how they can go back, only if the conditions are met, subject to wider monitoring, so that we only proceed in a sure-footed way.

‘Then from July 4, at the earliest, subject to the conditions, we’ll look at other sectors, and that will include hospitality, but it will also include personal care, and people like hairdressers.

‘Obviously, the proximity in those two sectors I’ve mentioned, hospitality and a personal care sector like hairdressers, is something where we don’t think we’re ready yet given where we are with the virus.

‘Our overriding goal is to make sure we protect people’s health, we don’t see the virus get out of control, that’s why we need to stay alert.’

A waiter serves customers at a terrace of a restaurant in Paris, on June 15, 2020
Outdoor dining could become commonplace (Picture: Getty Images)

 

How social distancing will work may depend on whether Boris Johnson announces changes to the 2m social distancing rule – with restaurants and cafes having expressed concern that the rule could hamper their chances of being able to re-open as they would not be able to accommodate enough customers.

Under the new guidance it has been suggested that people could be asked to maintain a one-metre distance from others and take other protective measures, such as wearing a mask.

Trade group UKHospitality put forward initial proposals last month on how restaurants could safely re-open and what customers can expect when they do.

The proposals suggest such moves as no cutlery and condiments on tables, with staff bringing them with customers’ food, as well as supplying individually wrapped condiments on request.

Tables would also be spaced in restaurants to meet social distancing guidelines, while use of menus should be limited and should be cleaned by staff afterwards.

Buffets could also be off the menu for the time being.

Outdoor dining may also become more common, with reports that cities around the UK are working on plans to expand outdoor tables in restaurants and cafes in a bid to save businesses which have lost money during lockdown.

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