Bars, pubs and restaurants in the UK may be forced to keep a record of all visitors under new plans to reopen the hospitality industry, the health secretary said this morning.
Matt Hancock told Nick Robinson on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that forcing venues to record customers’ personal details to assist track and trace measures was “one option”.
The model is currently being used in New Zealand, where pubs and restaurants must record a guest register and carry out regular head counts to trace potential outbreaks of coronavirus.
“I certainly wouldn’t rule that out,” said Hancock. “It isn’t a decision that we’ve taken yet but there are other countries in the world that take that approach and there’s a reason for it.”
He added: “What would happen is you would ensure that when you take bookings, you take down contact details so that if someone tests positive and has been in that venue… you’ll be able to contact the people who might be at risk.”
But leading figures in the hospitality industry have expressed concern that plans to record visitors’ personal details might be easier said than done.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality told City A.M: “Clearly there is an urgent need to discuss with government the mechanics of how this will best work but of course as an industry we stand ready to help our government to deliver an effective test, track and trace programme.”
“There are a few key considerations, not least how we can together encourage guests to voluntarily provide their data,” she added. ““As an industry, above anything, we are in urgent need of clarity and certainty for the reopening of hospitality.”
“What I am certain of is that the nation’s restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels will gladly welcome and embrace any opportunity to help support the wider health needs of their communities and the objectives of government, and to open their doors to welcome people back to their local bars and restaurants.”
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), told City A.M: “Many of the Night Time Economy and Events sector businesses already have technology in place which records customer attendance through ID check systems and ticket sales.
“The challenge is for those who don’t use these systems at present and the cost implications during such a financially difficult period.”
The British Beer and Pub Association has repeatedly criticised the government’s indecision over whether to lift the lockdown measures for the hospitality industry on 4 July — which is now only 13 days away — saying members need at least three weeks’ notice for venues to be ready to open on time.
Pubs have said they need time to un-furlough staff, procure freshly brewed beer and start taking bookings in order to make business viable when the lockdown measures are lifted.
Hancock today said the government would provide further clarity on a reopening date over the next few days.
“This week we will announce some of the measures we can take to relieve some of the national lockdown measures at the start of July”, he said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week told members of its hospitality taskforce – which includes prominent figures in the industry – that it would announce early this week that the lockdown would be eased for the sector on 4 July
But multiple members of the business body last week told City A.M. that the announcement had been delayed as the government deliberates over whether to ease the two-metre social distancing rule.
A recent survey by the NTIA found that the two-metre rule would limit business capacity to less than 30 per cent of normal trading. It added that 93 per cent of businesses were concerned that physical distancing measures would make their business unviable.
“If this new [register] system helps businesses increase capacity while also protecting customers then this may incentivise many operators to adopt the system,” Kill told City A.M. “But the government needs to consult further with the industry to ensure it’s a workable model.”