Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng believes social distancing in the retail and hospitality sectors could remain in some capacity for the rest of the year.
In February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced almost all covid-19 restrictions could be lifted by 21 June, so long as the battle against the coronavirus continues to go to plan. Despite the planned ease in June, with even nightclubs set to be allowed to open, however, Mr Kwarteng believes some social distancing could be here for the duration of the year. In an interview with The Times, he said: “When I speak to retailers and people in the hospitality industry they are quite ready to adapt their premises to social distancing.
“What they can’t stand is the idea of opening up and then plunging back into a lockdown. That’s what they really want to avoid. I think this year there may well be still some social distancing. There’s also that whole thing of consumer behaviour. People will expect a certain degree of safeguards. We don’t know how people are going to react.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls tweeted in response: “If this is the case then business rate relief needs to be urgently extended to the same time period. Capacity constraints and social distancing controls post 21 June mean our businesses do not break even and will not be able to pay even part of their sky-high rates bills.”