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Lockdown ‘loophole’ that means 30 people can meet in the pub

A member of bar staff wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) in the form of a face mask, serves food to seated customers inside the Wetherspoon pub, Goldengrove, in Stratford in east London, as restrictions are further eased during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
A loophole could mean that colleagues can meet in the pub at lunch in large groups as long as it’s for ‘work purposes’ (Picture: AFP)

Indoor working lunches of up to 30 people could be exempt from tier two restrictions, as potential loophole has emerged.

People living in high risk and very high risk areas, such as London, Greater Manchester, York and Liverpool, are banned from mixing with other households in any indoor setting. The rule applies to pubs and restaurants, as well as homes.

Groups of six from different households are still allowed to meet outdoors but gatherings of larger groups is illegal.

However, Downing Street and local authorities last night suggested the rules can be bent if the meetings are for ‘work purposes’.

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According to Government guidance, up to 30 workers from different households can meet in restaurants and pubs as long as they are Covid-secure.

A No 10 spokesperson said although employees are advised to work from home ‘where possible’, they ‘are permitted to meet indoors for work purposes in high or very high areas.’

A member of bar staff puts the outdoor seating in place as the pub opens in the Soho district of London on October 18, 2020, as further restrictions come into force to combat the rising numbers of novel coronavirus covid-19 cases.
Separate households are not allowed to mix in any indoor settings (Picture: AFP)

Hospitality business owners, who have been hit hard by the 10pm curfew and have lost hundreds of bookings after household mixing was banned in certain areas, are desperately calling on the Government for more clarity.

UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls said the loophole was a ‘real grey area’ and urged officials to help business owners who are currently struggling without lunchtime trade.

She told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The Government has given an exemption for business meetings up to 30 or meetings or gatherings that are deemed necessary for work purposes, but it’s provided no guidance on where those meetings can take place.

‘We’re asking for urgent clarification because in central London, if the working lunch is gone, there’s no trade.’

Ms Nicholls previously warned London Mayor Sadiq Khan that the tier two restrictions imposed in the capital will lead to 250,000 job losses.

Drinkers outside a pub in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The loophole has given hope to many hospitality businesses who have been hard-hit by restrictions (Picture: PA)

The organisation warned the industry as a whole will lose 750,000 jobs if the Government does not urgently put more financial support in place.

It comes as talks collapsed between Greater Manchester leaders and Downing Street, meaning the Government will force the region into tier three measures.

It will mean all pubs and bars that cannot serve substantial meals will be ordered to close their doors to the public for 28 days, along with betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.

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