New guidance and legislation on coronavirus prevention measures has been announced by the government. These rules are applicable only to England and will come into effect on Monday 14 September.
The new guidance reiterates best practices in all scenarios. These are:
- Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (e.g. meeting outside, wearing a mask etc.).
The new rules - which are enforceable by law and carry fines of up to £3,200 - are laid out below. Members should note that workplaces are exempt from the new 6 person limit rules. However, they should continue to take note of the guidance on workplace safety, which can be found here.
Whilst we endeavour to provide an accurate and clear explanation of the new regulations, there are areas of continuing uncertainty, which we are working through the British Chambers network to seek clarity on. The most important of these is the activities which have a dual purpose, partly business related but with social elements, such as business networking and events.
The rule of 6
You must not meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than 6. In England this will apply indoors and outdoors, including in private homes. Exemptions include:
- COVID-19 Secure venues, such as places of worship.
- Restaurants and hospitality venues.
- Education and work settings.
- Organised team sports.
- Weddings and funerals will have a limit of 30.
- Businesses who serve customers on their premises in groups, such as restaurants and pubs, are capable of remaining open (note local lockdown restrictions below). However, businesses must ensure that the groups on their premises (including outside spaces such as beer gardens and terraces) remain in groups of up to 6, with no mixing between groups. For instance, a restaurant can have 5 tables of up to 6 people making their capacity 30 patrons in addition to staff present without breaching the rules. Breaking these rules could result in fines, however there is a lack of clarity regarding the differential responsibilities between businesses and clients.
- Certain businesses will be required to use the Test and Trace system. Hospitality businesses will be required to record Test and Trace data for each group visiting their establishment, and keep it on record for 21 days. The government has also published simplified COVID-19 Secure guidance. Prior to 14 September participation in Test and Trace has been optional for hospitality businesses, but could now result in fines.
- No local Lockdown has been declared in the South West.
- Where lockdowns have been declared, the government has restricted the opening hours of certain types of premises, initially in local lockdown areas, with the option of national action in the future.
- In local lockdown areas some businesses are mandatorily closed, and those business owners will be provided with grants for each 3-week period that they have been closed based on the rateable value of their premises. These are worth £1,000 for premises with rateable values up to £51,000; and £1,500 for values above £51,00.
- For more information about how local lockdown rules could affect your business, see here.
- There is a lack of clarity in the grey area between work and social environments, e.g. networking, teambuilding events off-site.
- What are the repercussions on businesses who fail to enforce the rule of 6 or fail to record and keep Track and Trace information for the 21-day period? (the guidance says fines will be levied in egregious cases).
- Where does legal responsibility lie for ensuring that people in public spaces and in particular customers visiting a business’s trading premises – including shops – wear a face mask or comply with the ‘rule of 6’?