Business leaders have expressed relief that businesses including pubs, restaurants, and hairdressers will be able to reopen from July 4.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures on Tuesday (June 23) but gave the caveat that businesses must adhere to Covid secure guidelines.
In a bid to assist their reopening, the safe social distance will become “one metre plus” but the two metre rule should be followed where possible, he said.
Cinemas, museums and galleries, bingo halls, outdoor gyms, and arcades can also reopen, as can theatres and concert halls – although live performances are not permitted.
The news was welcomed by leading business groups. Phil Smith of Business West, part of the British Chambers of Commerce network, said: “These steps will enable more companies to reopen and will be cautiously welcomed by the business community.
“While the relaxation of the two-metre rule will help more firms increase capacity, we are still a long way from business as usual. Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis," he said.
“A comprehensive test and trace system, including a mass testing regime, must be in place to realise the benefits that the easing of restrictions could bring to firms across the UK, many of whom are relying on the swift return of consumer confidence.
“Businesses also need a clear roadmap to recovery, including fresh support for the worst-affected sectors and geographic areas, and broader fiscal measures to get the economy moving again.”
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We’d encourage everyone to support their local small businesses over the weeks ahead as more and more are able to reopen.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time, but there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. The fourth of July can’t come soon enough.”
And Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general at the CBI, said: “The long and nervous wait for hoteliers, landlords and restaurateurs is now nearing an end. It will also be a joy that our cultural centres can slowly return to life.
“Meanwhile, planning for a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery must now take centre stage. In the coming weeks business will be looking for the UK Government to accelerate efforts to protect jobs, livelihoods and future prosperity across all UK nations and regions.”