As now well over half of UK adults have received the first dose of the Coronavirus vaccine, expectations of lockdown easing and a return to some semblance of normality are naturally growing. The re-opening of outdoor drinking and dining on April 12th is a great source of excitement to many; and the provisional lockdown end date of June the 21st gives a tantalising feeling that finally this disruptive and sombre chapter may be drawing to a close. But many questions still remain – will vaccine passports for pubs be implemented? What will happen to international travel? And can I leave my local area now? We have collated some of the most pressing questions and offer our answers here.
How have the rules changed as of the 29th of March?
You may now meet up in groups of up to six outdoors, including private gardens. Outdoor sports, including horse riding, tennis, five-a-side football, and golf are now allowed. Organised sports teams are exempt from the limits on gathering, as long as all are playing. The ‘stay at home’ order has now officially been scrapped, and justifications for being out are no longer required. Matt Hancock has also confirmed that families can travel across England to visit each other for the Easter weekend, meaning family picnics may be in.
When will international travel resume?
Despite the weather heating up here, many are looking forward to getting away again. However, this does not look likely in the short to medium term. The government is expected to give its announcement on the status of foreign travel on the 4th of April, but many outlets have predicted they will defer approving holidays abroad for several weeks, at the minimum. The earliest date that international travel could resume is May 17th, but this date seems unlikely to be chosen. This is due to the fact that the government’s current biggest concern is that mutations of the Covid-19 virus such as the Brazil variant will be brought back to the UK via travel and that they could possibly be vaccine resistant or faster spreading. Additionally, even if the UK government did allow travel – many countries are restricting tourists from the UK as they attempt to limit the spread of the ‘Kent’ variant.
What about staycations?
From April 12th you will be able to have a staycation in self-contained accommodation with your own household (holidaying with other households will not be permitted until at least May 17th). With the continuing uncertainty about the status of international travel, this looks like a bumper year for staycations, with popular destinations like Cornwall expected to sell out quickly. The major loser of all this will likely be cities which rely on international tourists, and the government has urged Brits to take their holidays in Manchester, Birmingham, and Portsmouth – how many will take up this offer, however, remains to be seen.
Will I need a Covid vaccine passport to visit the pub?
This is a question that has been treated to a number of mixed signals. Michael Gove recently stated a categorical no in answer to this. However, Boris Johnson has suggested it may be the case that you will have to provide a negative Covid test or proof of a vaccination via the NHS app to access pubs, or to travel abroad. It has also been suggested that the policy will not be implemented at the national level but will in fact be up to individual publicans to decide on. Tim Martin, the owner of Wetherspoons has already advocated against this policy and has stated that Wetherspoons would not be joining any voluntary scheme. Pragmatically, the implementation of a vaccine passport when large segments of the population have not yet had chance to be vaccinated seems unlikely, but the government is expected to release more details on its plans in the coming weeks.
Is handling cash safe? What precautions should businesses take?
While the risk of Covid transmission from handling cash has been deemed by most scientific sources to be low, the recently announced coming increase in the contactless payment limit to £100 is an indication that many customers and business owners continue to prefer the ease and safety of credit card payments. Many businesses will also continue to operate a takeaway or delivery only service, with e-commerce payments becoming an increasingly important feature of life. If your business is re-opening on April 12th, make sure that you are getting the best rates and have the most appropriate terminals for your needs, take a look at our great range of payment solutions here.