The lockdown is still on and guidelines must be followed
Unreported by the media, quietly at 00:01am on 4th July the government revoked the lockdown restrictions in almost entirety and replaced with a “No. 2” set by the same title but far reduced. Since 4th July, a list of businesses required to close remains but has been shortened (hairdressers and pubs being let free). Otherwise, the only general restriction remaining in England is not to gather in groups of more than 30, increasing from 6 previously.
The definition of ‘gathering’ has not been changed since our previous post. The general point to observe, therefore, is that there are no restrictions in the regulations on social distancing so as to affect most people going about their daily lives.
- We are free to hug one another in the street and in our homes
- We are free to hug one another in our homes
- We are free to serve pints in a crowded bar
- We are free to run premises without one-way systems
- We are free to sing in places of worship and elsewhere
- We are free to stay with friends or family
- We are free to keep our faces uncovered
- We are free to make our own risk assessments based on evidence
Meanwhile, businesses and public are social distancing because the government, BBC and media generally are putting out misleading statements that they ‘must’ follow guidelines. This is simply untrue. (A new legal requirement has been introduced for social distancing at outdoor gatherings, but not indoors. This is explained within another post here.)
Shop and drink somewhere else
Yes, customers have to follow social distancing rules when visiting a shop or pub or restaurant if the controller of the premises chooses to adopt social distancing rules and the controller can refuse entry or eject the customer if they are not followed.
Yes, customers have to wear masks when visiting the hairdresser if the hairdresser chooses to adopt a mask-wearing rule and refuses to cut hair if a mask isn’t worn.
But this is because when customers enter the premises, they do so with subject to legal ‘licence’ of the controller of those premises.
However, there is no obligation on the customer to enter the shop. Customers are free to take their custom elsewhere to a shop, pub, restaurant, hairdresser or other business that is exercising different or no social distancing rules at all.
Why are businesses imposing these rules?
Businesses and employers can choose not to impose social distancing rules if they wish.
There are two reasons why they are not doing so:
- Fear of Covid-19 which remains fixed in the public mind
- Misinformation regarding health and safety obligations and risk assessments
As for inducing Fear, the legal rights and wrongs are far too complicated and we may leave to academics to consider. In practical terms, it may be unlikely that anyone, even Simon Dolan, will want to focus his energies there.
As for misinformation and risk assessments, however, it is vital that the public and businesses get a better understanding and wake up. We will be setting out the issues in a specific article on the point.
Finally, it is interesting to note that the No. 2 regulations introduce an important and wide ranging power for the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to direct that public areas must be closed where and when he considers it necessary (e.g. specifics beaches or parks, or even all beaches and parks). That power has not yet been exercised yet, since Leicester is being shut down under separate regulations.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020
In Wales, it is different. See our previous article on social distancing explaining why and our article explaining the difference in definition of a ‘gathering‘. The main UK legislation website does not, at time of this post and unlike the regulations for England, show within the principle regulations how they have been amended, but amended they were on 7 July and a document of sorts has been provided by the Wales Assembly Government. Initial observations are to see significant additional protections being added in Wales but we will consider this further in due course.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 as amended
Warning: Law and circumstances can change very quickly. Please note the date of publication of any blog post and check for any updates on the issues addressed. In any event, we do not condone or encourage breaching the law and neither the above nor any information posted on this website constitutes legal advice. It must not be relied upon as such and specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Please read our disclaimer.