Your Guide to the Latest Government Changes
On Tuesday September 23rd, the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures aimed at reducing the virus reproduction rate to a point where the epidemic is no longer growing. Over the last fortnight hospital admissions have doubled and as we approach winter COVID-19 is likely to spread faster, so as Mr Johnson said "This is the moment when we must act." It is the government's expectation that these measures may remain in place until March 2021.
Summary of the Main Headlines
1. Work From Home If You Can
- Those who are able to do so should work from home where possible.
- Those unable to work from home can continue to work following COVID-19 secure guidelines. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
- Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should contiue to go into work where necessary.
2. 10pm - 5am Closing Times
- From Thursday 24 September between 10pm and 5am all pubs, bars, restaurants, social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, adventure parks and activities, theme parks and bingo halls must close to the public.
- During opening hours all pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service only. This will include takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm.
- Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can 'check-in' at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September). To create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue please visit GOV.UK
- You should create and display a QR code if you are:
- a business, place of worship or community organisation with a physical location that is open to the public.
- an event which is taking place in a physical location.
- If you have more than one venue, you need to create a separate QR code for each location. You can add multiple locations in the service.
3. COVID Secure is Now The Law - Businesses Fined for Breaches
- From 28 September businesses and organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure.
- A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law and fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.
- Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.
- Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandatory.
4. Compulsory Face Covering Changes
- Face coverings are compulsory for anyone using public transport, NHS staff and visitors, passengers boarding aircraft, customers in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and a number of indoor places around the UK. They will also become compulsory as follows:
- From 23 September for those using taxis or private hire vehicles.
- Staff working on public transport and taxi drivers will continue to be advised to wear face coverings.
- From 24 September, face coverings must be worn by staff in shops, shopping centres, restaurants and bars, banks and hotels. It will also become law for face covering and visors to be worn in close contact services. New regulations make it clear that it is the employee / worker who is committing the offence and is liable for the £200 fine not the employer.
- Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- People who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, such as because of an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations.
5. Large Events, Meetings, Indoor Sports, Weddings & Funeral Restrictions
- From 1 October business conferences, exhibition halls and large sporting events will no longer go ahead.
- From 24 September support groups must be limited to a maximum of 15 people.
- Indoor organised sport for over 18s will no longer be exempt from the rule of six. There is an exemption for indoor organised team sports for disabled people (from 24 September).
- From 24 September there will be a new exemption in those areas of local intervention where household mixing is not allowed to permit friends and family to provide informal childcare for children under 14.
- From Monday 28 September the maximum numbers of guests permitted for weddings, civil partnerships and receptions will be reduced from 30 to 15 whilst funerals remain the same at 30. Other significant standalone life events will be subject to the ‘rule of six’ limits.
6. Increased Fines For Breaches
- From Monday 28 September the penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now be doubled to £200 for the first offence. Repeat offenders will have their fines doubled for successive offences, up to a maximum of £3,200.
7. Hands - Face - Space
- The government have said that it is critical that everybody observes the following:
- HANDS - Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds.
- FACE - Cover your face in enclosed spaces, especially where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- SPACE - Stay 2 metres apart where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place.
- These measures apply to England but there may be different rules if you live in an area under local lockdown (check local lockdown rules). If you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, different rules may apply. For example, Scotland have banned the visiting of other households indoors.
8. NHS COVID-19 Contact-Tracing App
The government are encouraging anyone aged 16 and over to download the new NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app that has launched today in England and Wales. The NHS COVID-19 app supports the Test, Trace and Protect service in Wales and the Test and Trace service in England. The app is free to download on iPhone and Android from Google Play and the App Store, and will alert users offering further guidance if they have been within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes of somebody who has tested positive, and who also has the app.
It also has a QR code scanning feature allowing users to easily check-in at a venues that display QR bar codes, rather than having to give staff their details. It can alert users if a venue they have visited is found to be an outbreak hotspot. The user can book a test and will be given advice on self-isolation if necessary, including a daily countdown so they know when they can leave home again. The app keeps secret who receives a self-isolation alert.
Some 160,000 businesses have already downloaded QR codes for use in their facilities.
Further Advice & Guidance
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Disclaimer: Please note this is not legal advice on your circumstances and HR:4UK are not qualified to give medical advice. Our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.