23 Sep Coronavirus: Raab stokes confusion over whether fast-food chains and coffee shops subject to ‘table-service only’ restrictions
Dominic Raab has stoked confusion for businesses after suggesting new coronavirus rules means customers would need to order food from their table in fast-food chains such as McDonalds and coffee shops in England.
His remarks came after Boris Johnson tightened restrictions on hospitality venues across the country in response to a surge in Covid-19 transmissions, including the introduction of a 10pm curfew for all entertainment venues.
In his statement to MPs, the prime minister said pubs, bars and restaurants must operate “table-service only” policies – excluding takeaways – to reduced the likelihood of people in these venues coming into close contact with orders in queues.
Pressed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on whether customers could enter establishments such as McDonalds, or any coffee, make an order then sit down at a table, Mr Raab said: “In all of the restaurants and hospitality you can go in and order from the tables. What you can’t do without a mask is just sit around and mill around.
Asked whether individuals can queue and take their order to a table, he added: “My understanding is that you need to be able order from the tables. But of course the guidance will be very clear.
“The key element in the guidance, and it will be made very clear for those businesses, is that we avoid the milling around and social interaction – we think the risk is much less when people are just sat down and eating. That’s the risk we’re mitigating against.”
However, guidance issued by the government on Tuesday evening suggested the table-service only policy would only apply to venues selling alcohol – appearing to contradict Mr Raab’s comments.
The guidance added: “In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered and served at a table.Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site.
“This does not cover where food or drink is purchased to eat or drink off site, when it can be offered and served at a counter/bar.”
Speaking on Wednesday, the foreign secretary also urged the public to play “by the rules” outlined by Mr Johnson in an address to the nation to avoid restrictions similar to the March lockdown being imposed once again.
But professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist and member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the new hospitality rules, such as the 10pm curfew, were “trivial” and would do little to reduce the epidemic.
“I think working from home if you can is certainly a good idea. I think that the measures in terms of closing bars an hour early and restaurants at 10 – I mean, nobody goes to a restaurant after 10 anyway,” he said.
“I think that’s fairly trivial in terms of it’ll have a small impact on the epidemic.
“Overall I don’t think that the measures have gone anywhere near far enough. In fact I don’t even think the measures in Scotland have gone far enough.”
The Independent has contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for clarification regarding the new rules.