Could May 17th be the beginning of the end of Lockdown? We certainly hope so! Initial indications are that there will be increased freedoms as we enter Step 3 of the roadmap, but it’s not carte blanche to do as you please. You still need to make sure that controls are in place to protect your staff and visitors. We’ll discuss below exactly what the changes mean for most businesses:
- Businesses – Most businesses can now reopen. This includes all retail outlets, indoor areas of hospitality venues (cinemas, theatres, amusement arcades, bingo halls and snooker / pool halls amongst others), indoor attractions (such as museums and galleries, adventure playgrounds, water parks and soft play areas, stately or historic building) and hotels. Remaining gym areas, such as saunas and steam rooms can also re-open.
- Events – Indoor and outdoor events may be arranged. Capacity will be restricted to 50% of capacity up to a maximum of 1,000 persons for indoor events and 50% of capacity up to a maximum of 4,000 people for outdoor events.
- Gatherings – Outdoor gatherings of 30 people are now permitted. Indoor gatherings of 6 persons or 2 households will also be allowed. Indoor meetings for larger numbers of people for work purposes are permitted, however social gatherings with work colleagues are not. Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 persons and this may be held indoors (those working, such as waiters and waitresses are not included in the capacity numbers). Weddings can be held with a maximum of 15 persons (again those working do not count towards this total).
- Organised Sport – Indoor sport can now be organised for all, including gym classes.
- Schools – Pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in classrooms or communal areas in any school environment. Face coverings will not be required for staff in classrooms (but they will still be required in corridors and communal areas). Domestic residential visits can be under-taken, however children should remain within their bubbles for the purpose of the visit. International visits are not recommended for this academic year. All other controls remain.
Some rules will stay in place until we reach Step 4 of the roadmap which will not occur until the 21st June at the earliest. These are:
- Social Distancing – The need to stay 2m apart (or 1m with enhanced precautions such as facial coverings) remains in place. Workplaces and hospitality venues must still adhere to these rules at all times. This remains a legal requirement. This should be communicated to your staff by use of floor markings and posters as applicable. Social distancing should also remain in place when sharing transport, such as vans or cars for commuting purposes.
- Face Coverings – These must still be worn in most indoor settings, such as shops and public transport, as is currently the case. Care should now be taken with transparent face shields. There is now evidence that they are not as effective as facial coverings and should be worn in combination with a covering if possible.
- Working From Home – Employees should continue to work from home if possible. This guidance has not changed. You may wish to make exceptions to this on mental wellbeing grounds.
- Employees who are CEV – Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable have not been required to shield since the 1st April. It would still be appropriate for them to work from home where possible, however if this is not possible the individuals are permitted to return to work provided adequate precautions (such as social distancing) can be enforced. Those living with any person who are CEV are not required to shield and can attend the workplace. They should be encouraged to follow enhanced hygiene controls such as regular handwashing and cleaning.
It is important that you don’t fall into the misconception that a perceived ‘relaxation’ of the restrictions allows you to change your current working practices. Penalties for not obeying the rules remain in place. There is a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences to a maximum of £6,400. Illegal gatherings of over 30 people can result in fines of £10,000. The HSE are still maintaining their campaign of checking that workplaces remain COVID-Secure and will no doubt be checking those businesses which are permitted to open from the 17th May.
By Ian Clayton CMIOSH, Managing Director of Risk Management