John White: the road ahead

John White lockdown
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As the UK begins tentative steps to reopen, BACTA chief executive John White gives his perspective on how and when amusements business might expect to exit lockdown


“Further to Sunday night’s address from the prime minister, the government has today published its framework for moving England through the current Covid-19 crisis and back to work (advice in Scotland and Wales is slightly different and has not changed markedly from the original lockdown guidance).

Needless to say in the two documents (one on social distancing, the other, the framework recovery plan) public health remains the principal concern. There will be changes but they will be closely monitored and if the disease begins to spread more quickly in the population, the framework and associated measures will be altered to reflect that. Any relaxation in lockdown, both from a social and an economic point of view will therefore be intrinsically gradual and phased.

Arcades are specifically referenced in the social distancing document as those premises required to remain closed: a sign perhaps that our lobbying has got us noticed as we weren’t originally on the list of premises that were specifically ordered to close back in March. This means our arguments going forward will be heard by people that understand that our sector has its own issues that need to be addressed. That is a good thing as we seek to ensure that we can get FECs and AGCs open as soon as possible consistent with the public health priority for businesses to be “Covid-19 Secure.” The work we have done on our re-opening paper sent to you last week satisfies that very basic requirement. It is therefore our task now to argue that members are ready to put those measures into place and can safely re-open. The government will be publishing more detailed workplace guidance shortly which will sit alongside what we have done, but the Framework Plan published today gives us two important date markers. Firstly, and depending on medical advice, it is the intention of the government to allow non-essential retail to begin to re-open from June 1. This will be phased and closely monitored. Secondly, it is the intention of the government to allow the hospitality sector to begin to re-open from July 4. This will be phased and closely monitored.

At this stage we cannot say what this means for our sector but our lobbying efforts will be focused on making sure we are top of the list. It is hard to see how an AGC does not constitute non-essential retail, for example. This will be a tougher argument to make for FECs but even if these premises fall into the second category, we must have FECs open as soon after July 4 as possible to catch what’s left of the season.”

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