No10 tells shoppers to wear masks and bars to keep table service after 19 July

15 July 2021, 08:59

New government guidance on masks, table service and Covid passports means life could look quite similar after 'Freedom Day'.
New government guidance on masks, table service and Covid passports means life could look quite similar after 'Freedom Day'. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Masks in shops and table service at bars could remain despite the relaxation of many legal restrictions on Monday, in new guidance which has been criticised as a "real mess."

The government has said people will be expected to wear masks in some circumstances, although it won't be enshrined in law, in new guidance on what businesses are expected to do after 'Freedom Day'.

The guidance on workplace safety in England says the government "expects and recommends" masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces as the work from home order ends.

Sainsbury's has already said it will encourage customers to continue wearing masks in its supermarkets, with the workplace guidance on masks stating it does not just apply to staff.

Arriving at a bar, restaurant or pub is also likely to look very similar after Monday, with hospitality venues urged to ask customers to check in and use hand sanitiser.

Table service is also recommended to continue, with screens at tills and counters.

Read more: Mayors demand face masks remain compulsory on public transport after July 19

Read more: 'Irresponsible': Senior doctors condemn PM's 19 July lockdown easing

In another extension of the rollout of vaccine passports, restaurants, bars and pubs join nightclubs in being encouraged to check vaccine and testing status as a condition of entry through the NHS Covid Pass.

Boris Johnson previously suggested they would only be recommended in "nightclubs and other venues with large crowds".

While the rules will no longer be law, local authorities and the government's Health and Safety Executive can still carry out compliance checks and bring prosecutions where they identify "significant breaches" of the guidance.

Read more: Ben Kentish challenges PM on plan to scrap mandatory face masks

The recommendations are another step back from the grand unlocking that the prime minister and ministers were trailing in early July, as surging case numbers force a rethink.

Metro mayors across the country have already piled pressure on the PM to reverse his plan to end the legal requirement for masks, with many saying they will require them as a condition of travel on their transport networks.

In Wales and Scotland masks will remain a legal requirement in enclosed public spaces, with Nicola Sturgeon saying the Scottish government would "do what is necessary to ensure compliance and... take any resulting flack from those who disagree."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon eases Scotland lockdown to Level 0 - but face masks remain mandatory

Read more: Most Covid restrictions in Wales set to be lifted from August 7

The workplace guidance has also been heavily criticised by unions and employers, with the TUC describing it as a "recipe for chaos and rising infections".

Paddy Lillis, the general secretary of the shop union Usdaw, said: "We are very disappointed that the government has not consulted broadly with unions and employers on this guidance.

"So what they have now published, just a few days before it comes into force, provides no assurances for staff or employers. It is a real mess.

"Protection for retail workers through wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing in busy public areas like shops should be backed up by the law."

Read more: Face masks: Everything you need to know about new rules from July 19

Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, added that bosses are "understandably confused" as he criticised "a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements".

"Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. Today's long-awaited guidance from government has done little to dispel that confusion," he said.

NHS figures show at least two-thirds of adults in the UK have now received both doses of a vaccine.

But on Wednesday the government also reported the highest daily rise in Covid-19 cases since 15 January, with 42,302 recorded in a single day.

A further 49 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the official total to 128,530.