Covid UK: Shop owners and supermarkets wait to hear Boris Johnson’s Freedom Day plan


Shop owners and supermarket chains are among the many businesses anxiously awaiting the Prime Minister’s new ‘Freedom Day’ plans set to be unveiled this evening. 

Changes to the lifting of Covid restrictions on July 19 are set to be announced at a highly anticipated press conference today at 5pm. 

Boris Johnson is expected to signal a sharp shift in approach, saying people must use their common sense on Covid risks rather than being compelled by the state. 

The one-metre plus decree and advice to work from home where possible will be dropped, with mask wearing no longer mandatory.

Under the new plans, pubs and other venues will also not have to collect customer details and will again be able to serve drinks at the bar. 

News of the announcement attracted mixed reactions, with some business owners claiming the changes would make running their businesses easier. 

Adrian Gale, co-owner of GupSup sandwich shop, said: ‘You can’t make people wear masks, it’s hard enough enforcing it as it is.

‘Even today some people don’t wear them so there’s no way we could ask them to when it’s no longer mandatory.

News of the announcement attracted mixed reactions, with some business owners such as Adrian Gale claiming the changes would make running their businesses easier

News of the announcement attracted mixed reactions, with some business owners such as Adrian Gale claiming the changes would make running their businesses easier

Other business representatives like Sue Whiston, finance operations director of Kuula Poke restaurant, say they will be handing their customers the choice on whether to wear face coverings in their establishment

Other business representatives like Sue Whiston, finance operations director of Kuula Poke restaurant, say they will be handing their customers the choice on whether to wear face coverings in their establishment

Other business representatives like Sue Whiston, finance operations director of Kuula Poke restaurant, say they will be handing their customers the choice on whether to wear face coverings in their establishment

Boris Johnson is to declare an end to most lockdown restrictions from July 19 at a press conference later today

Boris Johnson is to declare an end to most lockdown restrictions from July 19 at a press conference later today

Boris Johnson is to declare an end to most lockdown restrictions from July 19 at a press conference later today

‘Ideally we would prefer if customers do for the safety of staff but it will be for them to decide. Therefore we will keep up the sign asking people to wear a face covering.’

But the 45-year-old from Aldridge, West Mids, said they would still retain other measures such as the perspex screens to keep their staff safe. 

‘We do have screens behind the till and staff don’t actually wear masks for serving customers unless they want to because they rarely come within two metres as we have no seating space inside.

‘I don’t think other businesses like us could afford to turn people away who refuse to wear one, we have suffered enough already.’

Supermarket chains were among the businesses who are taking a more cautious approach to the Prime Minister’s announcement, which would mean shoppers no longer had to wear masks in their stores. 

Under proposed plans to scrap social distancing, stores would also be able to let more people into their stores, which could mean less queues but more crowds.

Although many stressed that the safety of their customers is paramount, the move could also spark fears over the safety of their staff.

Retail staff were repeatedly abused over the course of the pandemic, particularly when they were tasked with enforcing the mark mandate inside their shops. 

Supermarket chains were among the businesses who are taking a more cautious approach to the Prime Minister's announcement, which would mean shoppers no longer had to wear masks in their stores. Pictured: file photo

Supermarket chains were among the businesses who are taking a more cautious approach to the Prime Minister's announcement, which would mean shoppers no longer had to wear masks in their stores. Pictured: file photo

Supermarket chains were among the businesses who are taking a more cautious approach to the Prime Minister’s announcement, which would mean shoppers no longer had to wear masks in their stores. Pictured: file photo

Almost nine in ten retail staff reported they suffered verbal abuse in the last year, with 60 per cent having reported threats of physical violence, and 9 per cent said they had been physically assaulted. 

Time for the bar! From table service to working from home, those changing rules 

Boris Johnson is to declare an end to most lockdown restrictions from July 19 today, with social distancing rules, the work from home order, and mask mandates to be ditched as he will argue that we must learn to live with coronavirus as we do with the flu. 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS

Hospitality venues in England will no longer be required to collect track and trace data from July 19. Businesses won’t have to ask customers to scan a QR code using the NHS phone app on entry or to hand over their contact details, although they will have the option of continuing to do so if they wish. Mandatory table service rules will also be scrapped, meaning drinkers will be able to order at the bar again in pubs.

MASKS

Wearing masks will become voluntary everywhere apart from hospitals and other health facilities from July 19 in England. Public transport passengers, shoppers and those visiting pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres will no longer be required by law to cover up. However, people may still be encouraged to wear masks in some enclosed places where they come into close contact with each other, for example on London Tube trains. 

TEST AND TRACE

People in England who have received both coronavirus vaccine doses will no longer have to isolate at home for ten days if they have come into contact with someone who tests positive. They will be offered lateral flow tests to do themselves at home instead, although these will not be compulsory. The change could come into force on July 19, although the date has not yet been finalised. 

WORK FROM HOME

The official guidance telling people to ‘work from home if you can’ will be scrapped on July 19 in England. But it will be left up to employers and their staff to decide whether they have to go back to their desks. Ministers will not launch a campaign encouraging staff back to the office and are resigned to there not being a mass return to workplaces this summer.

Safety measures required as a result of the pandemic were among the most common triggers, with some 85 per cent of incidents related to issues such as queueing, social distancing and the requirement for face masks. 

The shocking figures came from a survey of 2,700 workers by the retail industry’s trade union Usdaw in April.  

Larger supermarket chains remained quiet on what any decision on masks would mean for their stores and business and have instead chosen to wait and see what the Prime Minister announces. 

A spokesperson for the John Lewis Group, which runs Waitrse and the John Lewis department stores, told Mail Online: ‘We will work to understand any implications for Waitrose and John Lewis. The safety of our customers and Partners will continue to be our absolute priority.’ 

The supermarket giants’ sentiments were echoed by Sainsbury’s, where a spokesperson added: ‘We haven’t announced anything at this stage. Safety remains our highest priority and we continue to follow government guidance. 

‘We will keep customers and colleagues updated on our plans.’

Other business representatives say they will be handing their customers the choice on whether to wear face coverings in their stores.  

Sue Whiston, finance operations director of Kuula Poke restaurant, told Mail Online: ‘Boris seems to be going to say wearing masks will be for us to decide, so we’re preparing to give our customers the choice.

‘We aren’t going to enforce them and I don’t think it would be possible if we wanted to.

‘It does say on the door to wear a mask inside the shop because the covid steward told us we had to have it.

‘I would’ve thought we’ll remove that once we’re no longer enforcing the rule.

The 60-year-old from Leamington Spa, Warks., added: ‘We are concerned about protecting our staff so we will keep the massive screen in front of the till and limit numbers seated inside.

‘We are planning to open the mezzanine level to increase capacity only when it’s safe to do so.

‘For the time being most of our seating will be outside as it’s the summer and for takeaway the average time inside the shop is two and half minutes, so safety won’t be issue.

‘If you’ve got covid you shouldn’t be walking about with or without a mask.

‘I’m sure some customers will keep wearing masks like the staff at the hospital who have been coming in through lockdown.

‘They’re very careful about wearing them and keeping back from the till.

‘I think the majority of people have had enough of masks now and if they don’t want to wear one when ordering their food here it’s up to them.’



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