Boris Johnson has declared July 19th to be “Freedom Day,” the day when coronavirus transmission limits would be lifted. However, the government’s contradictory messages and emphasis on individual responsibility have left businesses worried about the safety of their employees and customers, as well as the health of their businesses.
Company executives are concerned that lifting limitations abruptly will add to the current surge of diseases, forcing personnel to self-isolate. The possibility of another lockdown is even worse. Meanwhile, unions have cautioned that employees who try to persuade clients to maintain social distance or mask-wearing may suffer abuse or violence.
As the number of Covid-19 cases grew this week, ministers reversed their earlier reopening announcement, saying that all limitations would be lifted. While masks are no longer legally obligatory in England, the government now states it “expects and encourages” that people wear them in crowded and enclosed public venues. Face coverings will remain mandatory in Scotland and Wales. Retailers, bartenders, and other business owners had only five days to prepare after the announcement.
Retailers should “consider encouraging, for example through signage, the usage of facial coverings by personnel, particularly in interior locations where they may come into contact with persons they do not regularly meet,” according to newly released recommendations.
Professor Denis Kinane, chief medical officer of Signpost Diagnostics and an immunologist, slammed the government’s stance.
“In the lack of mandatory safeguards, the government is effectively leaving it up to the employer, and to a lesser extent the employee, to determine their own level of precautions and risk assessment,” he explained.
According to a poll conducted by insurance provider Simply Business, more than half (53%) of UK small business owners believe it is too early to ease restrictions and that the country is at risk of being pushed into another lockdown. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, hotel firms will be on the receiving end of the most recent measures. The industry has reacted positively to the lifting of limitations, which will allow establishments like pubs, clubs, and restaurants to reopen at full capacity and generate much-needed revenue. However, if personnel come into touch with people who have Covid-19, such preparations may be jeopardized. Chef Gordon Stott of the Purefoy Arms in Hampshire expressed concern about personnel being forced to self-isolate.
““Until all of our employees have been double-vaccinated, we’ll be using masks,” he said. “We’re more concerned about getting sick than about having to close!” For the time being, Cathy Frost, owner of Liverpool’s Panoramic 34 restaurant and bar, said she will retain all of the precautions from its existing Covid-19 risk assessment in place.
“We are glad that the government is loosening limitations to give hospitality a fighting chance to resume service at a level that is close to normal,” she said.
“We will continue to test all of our team every week and encourage them to take advantage of the immunization program while giving the public greater freedom and allowing them to take some responsibility.”
Firms are working hard to revise their plans in time for Monday, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. “When they’re out and about starting Monday, we’re advising shoppers and revelers to observe the distinctive house rules of every business,” he said.
Due to a lack of clarity in the instructions, supermarket executives have issued their own announcements on their own regulations. They indicate that “Freedom Day” may look more like the status quo than its name suggests. Customers will be advised to wear masks and Sainsbury’s will continue to reduce customer numbers in stores. Waitrose, John Lewis, Aldi, Lidl, and Tesco have all advised their employees and customers to keep wearing masks. Because limits no longer have legal validity, the Usdaw union has warned that the policy will cause uncertainty and may expose shop-floor workers to assault, abuse, and threats.
According to health and safety expert, Simon Jubb of consultancy firm A3c, the manager of the shop, pub, or bar has the final say on how customers must behave on their premises.
“There is a lot of rhetoric about freedom and not having to do certain things like wear masks anymore, but that isn’t really true,” Mr. Jubb explained. “While the government is responsible for public spaces, private establishments and enterprises have a responsibility to their employees and customers.”
“If the sign on the door states masks must be worn, you have two options as a service user of that business: mask up or don’t use the service,” he continued. The broader question is whether the measures will achieve their goal, regardless of how well people and corporations follow the new voluntary recommendations.
While the relaxations are meant to boost the economy by encouraging people to visit town centers, there is some indication that the government’s strategy may harm the high street. According to a YouGov poll done on behalf of Manhattan Associates, 52% of respondents claimed that a lack of social distancing in stores would encourage them to shop online. The economic recovery remains, as it has been from the beginning of the pandemic, reliant on first combating the infection.