As Melbourne and Sydney wake up to another week in lockdown, bars and pubs in England have welcomed the news that COVID-19 restrictions are ending today.
In the UK, more than 79 million vaccine doses have been administered, with every adult having been offered at least one dose and 64% of adults having received two doses. In Australia, 13% of the population fully vaccinated, with 10 million jabs now administered.
The UK has lost 10,000 venues, $87billion in sales and more than 350,000 jobs since the pandemic began last year. Today has been dubbed “Freedom Day” across England. QR codes to enter pubs will no longer be a legal requirement and the British government’s “work from home” message will end.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said: “For the vast majority of hospitality businesses, July 19 will be the first time in 16 months that they have been able to realistically look to break even and move towards profitability.
“Hospitality businesses will continue to provide safe and enjoyable experiences as we move into the summer and beyond and, in doing so, will also safeguard jobs, livelihoods and the venues we cherish so much.”
England has the seventh highest death toll in the world at 128,708. It is forecast to soon have more new COVID-19 infections each day than it did at the height of a second wave of the virus earlier this year, but daily deaths are falling. There are only about 40 per day, compared to above 1800 in January.
The majority of Brits are concerned about the end to restrictions. Here are the results of a recent You Gov poll:
There are also mixed feelings among venues. The Brown Cow announced on Facebook: “We’ve followed the rules, tried to keep you all safe and done everything they’ve asked of us during this horrendous time. From today however we won’t be following their guidance.”
“The Cow will do it their own way…We need to limit the risk of staff becoming ill and us falling victim to closure again. Our order point screen and sanitisation points will remain in place, we would prefer you to use them.
“We will not be introducing bar stools until we feel it is safe to do so. We shall be offering table service to those that prefer it. We will be keeping windows and doors open for ventilation. Thank you all for the continued support as we navigate through this next chapter.”
The COVID-19 restrictions ending in England
Here are the changes to COVID-19 restrictions in England from July 19.
- No limits on how many people can meet
- 1m-plus guidance removed (except in some places like hospitals and passport control when entering)
- Face coverings no longer required by law, although the government still “expects and recommends” them in crowded and enclosed spaces
- Some shops and transport operators will still require masks
Events and gatherings
- Nightclubs can reopen
- Pubs and restaurants no longer table-service only
- No limits on guests at weddings and funerals
- No limits on people attending concerts, theatres or sports events
- No restrictions on communal worship
- Guidance recommending against travel to amber list countries removed. (Those returning from France to England, Wales and Scotland must still quarantine for 10 days)
- Under-18s and fully vaccinated adults no longer have to self-isolate after visiting amber list countries
Fears of indefinite lockdown in Victoria and NSW
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced this morning that the state’s fifth lockdown would be extended beyond Tuesday at midnight.
“(Ending the lockdown) would not be the right thing to do. It would be, perhaps, a few days of sunshine, and then a very high chance we would be back in lockdown again, that is what I’m trying to avoid, we are trying to do this properly and bring the cases to an end,” he said.
“This thing is moving so fast, it is so challenging and dynamic that we have to do be on our guard and make sure we make the best calls because you only get one chance to do that.”
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief Alexi Boyd told the Herald Sun that any extension of the lockdown’s COVID-19 restrictions would be “devastating” for Victoria’s small business sector.
“We don’t have anything else left on the balance sheet, there are no more cash reserves left,” Boyd said. “Our members are just keeping their heads above water covering day to day expenses.”
In NSW, stay-at-home orders are in place in Greater Sydney until at least Friday, July 30.
Australian Hotels Association Director of Liquor and Policing John Green told Sky News: “Obviously, the venues have gone through a lot over the last 16 months.
“From ten weeks of shutdown, to operating over the last year after that with significant restrictions to then be forced back into lockdown now. Many of them have obviously been spending a lot of their capital, their available funds, over the last year while operating under restrictions.
“Now they’ve been shut down for two, at least three weeks – they’re in dire straits. Their financial situation is more grim by the day.”
Lion announced last Friday that it would credit pubs and clubs for full, unused kegs that will never see a schooner poured from them. Lion Managing Director James Brindley (above, right) said the latest outbreak was another devastating blow for an industry already on its knees.
“Beer is fresh and needs to be enjoyed within its short shelf life,” he said. “Our thoughts are with everyone in the hospitality industry across Greater Sydney, and the most important thing we can do is stick together and support one another.
“We hope this initiative will go some way to easing some of the unimaginable burden that many pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants will currently be facing. It truly feels like Groundhog Day.
“We never wanted to be in this situation again, after having had to tip the equivalent of 11 million schooners last year. Once again there will be a large volume of beer in kegs that will sadly never get to see a schooner.
“With the Sydney lockdown now entering its third week, our focus will now turn to preparing for re-opening, and we will be ready with the freshest kegs in the state to welcome their communities back with open arms. We’ll continue to monitor the NSW Government’s response and adjust our support if needed.
“We’ve done this before, and we will get through it again, and we are committed to supporting pubs and clubs – the local venues that keep our communities connected – every step of the way.”
Pictured main: The Acorn Pub, Nuneaton