British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his conditional plan for bringing the UK out of Covid-19 lockdown, in an address to the nation on 10 May.
While the plan noted that the rate of infection in the UK – the ‘R’ – is less than one, it could be as high as 0.9, meaning that it is still too early for a sizeable rollback of lockdown restrictions.
No specific timeline was confirmed as far as the events industry is concerned, but the Prime Minister did hint that parts of the hospitality industry could re-open as early as July. He said if five conditions set by the government were met, then at step three of the government’s plan, at the earliest by July, the UK could see a re-opening of “at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.”
The Prime Minster added that his government would be driven by science, as opposed to “hope or economic necessity”.
“And I must stress again that all of this is conditional,” he added. “It all depends on a series of big ‘Ifs’. It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that ‘R’ down.”
The Prime Minister did confirm that those arriving to the UK would face quarantine, although he stopped short of confirming the duration of such a measure. He also noted that should the rate of infection again begin to climb, that the UK would return to full lockdown measures.
He said: “To prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.
“Of course, we will be monitoring our progress locally, regionally, and nationally and if there are outbreaks, if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes.”
Those travelling from the Republic of Ireland and France will be exempt from quarantine obligations.
There was no confirmation on whether or not the NHS Nightingale hospitals, or their equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were to be closed or mothballed. The field hospitals are currently set up in some of the UK’s biggest event venues, such as ExCeL London, the SEC, Harrogate Convention Centre and the NEC in Birmingham.
Lex Butler, Chair of the hotel and booking agents association in the UK, HBAA, commenting on the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, said: “The doors of the £70bn UK meetings and events industry are as tightly locked as they were before the Prime Minister’s announcement and I fear that many businesses will not survive until the possible start of the reopening of the hospitality industry in July.
“Actually, the introduction of quarantine for travellers will only make it more difficult to #getbritainmeeting face to face and will extend the use of hybrid and virtual event formats.
“The businesses in this industry urgently need much more support to survive and to get their 700,000 staff back to work and off furlough. As HBAA has been demanding for several weeks, we immediately need to know that the furlough scheme will be extended beyond the end of June and on what terms. And commercial rent relief still has not been agreed – landlords could be evicting our members in a few weeks.
“We need clarity now to prevent closures and large scale loss of jobs. We also need clarity and clear definition on whether the government’s statement that the ‘hospitality industry could start to reopen in July’ includes meetings and events and what criteria it must meet.”