Plans to reopen bowling alleys in England postponed, face masks to be mandatory in cinemas: Plans to reopen bowling alleys, casinos and ice rinks in England from tomorrow (Saturday, 1 August) have been postponed for at least two weeks amid concerns of a spike in coronavirus cases. Face masks will also become mandatory in further indoor settings such as cinemas, museums and galleries. Pilot schemes to restart socially distanced events such as live shows and large-attendance sporting events have also been put on hold. However, a change in guidance advising employees to return to the workplace rather than working from home where possible will still go ahead. Speaking from Downing Street, Boris Johnson said “we must squeeze the brake pedal” to keep the virus under control. Wedding receptions of up to 30 people were also meant to be allowed as part of the changes but cannot yet happen. The prime minister said progress against coronavirus continued, with the daily and weekly number of deaths falling. However, he warned some European countries were “struggling” to control it. The UK must be ready to “react”, he said. Highlighting the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), he added: “The prevalence of the virus in England is likely to rise for the first time since May.” According to the ONS, there’s “evidence to suggest a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive on a nose and throat swab in recent weeks”. This is based on the organisation’s infection survey – taking swabs from people selected randomly. Last week, the ONS estimated there were 2,800 new infections each day with one in 2,000 people – 28,000 in total – infected in England. The rethink follows new restrictions for people in parts of northern England following a spike in virus cases.
Welsh hospitality businesses to reopen indoors from Monday as first minister praises sector over outdoor operations: Welsh hospitality businesses can reopen indoors from Monday (3 August), with first minister Mark Drakeford praising the sector for the careful way they have operated outdoors. Pubs, restaurants and cafes in the country were permitted to reopen outdoors on 13 July. Now, having been shut since mid-March, they will be allowed to serve customers indoors again. Drakeford said he would be “pleased” to eat indoors in pubs that had appropriate safety measures in place. He told Heart South Wales: “We said a couple of weeks ago, provided everything went according to plan we would be able to reopen indoor hospitality on 3 August. It depended on coronavirus. We’ve had the latest checks and we’re confident now to go ahead. We expect the same care to be taken indoors by people who are running bars, pubs and so on as they have been doing outdoors – then it will be safe.” Three weeks ago ministers announced exemptions would be made to Wales’ two-metre distancing law, with businesses that can’t meet it expected to take precautions. Cinemas were able to reopen earlier this week.
Everyman – cinema admissions ‘encouraging’, secures rent concessions for more than half of estate: Cinema operator Everyman has reported “encouraging admissions” since it started reopening its venues and has secured rent concessions for more than half its estate. It stated: “Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in these venues and admissions are at encouraging levels given the scarcity of new content. The remaining venues will open in phases, with all venues planned to be open by 21 August. In addition, a new venue in King’s Road, Chelsea, opened on 25 July, with a further venue in Lincoln due to open on 21 August. While current trading has inevitably been soft with no major releases, encouraging numbers of customers are returning. This validates the strength of the business model, which is well positioned to take advantage as the sector recovers.” Everyman said it had a strong balance sheet, helped by its £17.5m equity raise in March and available credit facilities. It added it would remain within its banking covenants in the second half of the year and beyond. Property costs are the second-largest overhead in the business and Everyman said it had worked with its landlords to agree variations to lease agreements. Concessions have been agreed on more than half the estate, with further discussions ongoing. The group said it had also worked with landlords on delaying certain new sites and had decided not to push ahead with three, cutting its pipeline of new venues for 2021-22 to eight. While the company will incur exceptional costs from exiting some of those agreements, the company said a prudent approach to openings was “in the best interests” during the current climate.