Following a sharp rise in infections, and the discovery of a new variant of coronavirus, Boris Johnson has announced a national lockdown for England, moving the country to alert level 5.
With most of the country already under extreme measures, the hospitality industry has been hit hardest by the restrictions throughout 2020 and businesses will continue to suffer as closures continue.
In his announcement on January 4, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for a lockdown “which is tough enough to combat this variant.”
The number of hospital patients has increased by almost a third to nearly 27,000, almost a third higher than the peak of the first wave in April.
The lockdown will come into force on Wednesday January 6.
Boris Johnson explains that “if the roll out of the vaccine programmes continues to be successful, if deaths start to fall, and critically if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope that we can steadily move out of lockdown.”
The tier system had previously been formally reviewed every fortnight, following an assessment of coronavirus cases.
From Wednesday January 6, all pubs and restaurants in England must close and can only offer food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.
What about pubs outside of England?
In Scotland, where lockdown was introduced at midnight on December 4, restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars are all closed, save for takeaways only. Face coverings and physical distancing rules must be followed on site.
If you are resident in Wales, pubs are shut in line with the introduction of a lockdown from December 20. Pubs can only offer takeaway services while the country is in Level 4, the highest level of restrictions.
Pubs, bars and restaurants in Northern Ireland must remain closed from December 26. They can only offer takeaway services, and must be closed by 8pm, in line with the latest lockdown rules.
What does this mean for the hospitality industry?
The Prime Minister has apologised for what he called “the unavoidable hardship” experienced by workers in the hospitality industry.
The measures at the end of 2020 were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs, with a warning that one million jobs are on the line. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said that the changing tiers were “far worse than anyone could have anticipated”.
“This will have a catastrophic effect on a large number of businesses and all those jobs that were furloughed will now be lost. You are talking about the prospect of a million job losses and 30 to 40,000 premises closing their doors for good. This a cruel decision and it just feels as if the whole sector is being thrown to the wolves.”
Hospitality trade bodies are calling for a swift support package for the industry. UKHospitality wrote to the Prime Minister in December requesting a enhanced grants for businesses, and a clear exit strategy from restrictions.