2m distancing suggestion 'fundamentally idiotic'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Post-lockdown blueprint: doctors suggested two metre distancing between tables in pubs should be a requirement
Post-lockdown blueprint: doctors suggested two metre distancing between tables in pubs should be a requirement

Related tags: Bma, lockdown, Legislation, Health and safety

It would be “fundamentally idiotic” for pubs to operate with two metres between tables, a pub company chief executive has said.

His words come in response to a post-lockdown blueprint from the British Medical Association (BMA) which said two-metre distancing should be required in pubs. 

Doctors published their recommendations to Government and said “more support” was required to allow businesses to “put physical infection control measures in place,” such as funding screens and signs. 

These measures should be in place “as we exit lockdown and until a vaccine is available and widely taken up,” the blueprint outlined.

“Clearer guidance is also required to implement infection control measures in hospitality settings, such as requiring a distance of two metres between tables in restaurants or pubs/bars as well as adequate ventilation,” the report stated.

In England, pubs have been required to distance tables at least one metre apart provided other coronavirus protocols are in place. Welsh businesses must ensure tables are two metres apart.

Oakman Inns founder and chairman Peter Borg-Neal said it would be “idiotic” for the Government to take up the two-metre recommendation.

He told The Morning Advertiser (MA)​: “It's fundamentally idiotic because it's unachievable. If you do two metres between tables physically, it just quite simply doesn't work.

"What we got to with the Government was a very sensible thing. Where the Covid protocols were introduced originally and put in place, they work and I can absolutely prove that."

Safe environments

The BMA had made a “valid point” about ventilation in hospitality environments, the pubco boss said. Good ventilation was one of the reasons pubs were safer than private homes, according to Borg-Neal. "There's an argument that ventilation should be part of the protocol. You could even have your tiers based on the ability to comply with the Covid protocol," he said.

“People are going to drink over Christmas,” the chairman said. “They would be much safer meeting friends in controlled environments [like pubs].”

The Government has said it will set out post-lockdown plans for England shortly, with an announcement about the festive period expected closer to the time based on the latest infection data.

While the Prime Minister has assured the public the lockdown will expire next month in place of a regional approach, there has not yet been confirmation if the tier system will return in the same way.

The BMA said the Government must tighten rules to limit the spread of coronavirus when England leaves lockdown next month.

The BMA chair of Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "When the first lockdown ended, there was no coherent plan for keeping Covid-19 at bay, no clear and simple public messaging; this was followed by spiralling infection rates, more businesses failing, new ‘local’ lockdowns, and now we have a death toll at more than 52,000.

“As England prepares to exit its second lockdown, it is unthinkable that we make the same mistakes again because this time, the impact will be far worse. It’s reasonable to conclude, that without these measures, the NHS will not be able to cope with caring for even the most critically ill patients."

Its recommendations included:

  • Abolishing the rule of six with a two-household "bubble" system to reduce interactions between different households.
  • Banning travel between areas under different tiers.
  • Businesses should be committed to legal requirements and not guidance.
  • People should continue to 'work from home' where they can.
  • Socialising outdoors should be encouraged.
  • A two-metre requirement between tables in hospitality venues.
  • More funding for businesses to install screens and signs.
  • Masks should be worn indoors where social distancing cannot possible and even outside sometimes.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said further restrictions would “kill businesses”.

Transmission evidence

She said:  “Pubs have been operating with the one metre-plus rule since they reopened in July and there is still no evidence of anything other than a very small number of Covid transmissions linked to hospitality venues. Pubs are being hamstrung enough as it is, after investing huge amounts of time and money into making venues safe.”

The Government has been urged to give businesses at least a week’s notice on reopening rules​.

The Morning Advertiser​ asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy (BEIS) if it could rule out the introduction of a two metre distancing requirement, as recommended by the BMA. 

The department had not responded by the time of publication but this article will be updated upon a response.

Related topics: Health & safety

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