Suffolk businesses give views on new social distancing laws

From Monday social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

From Monday social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk hospitality bosses have given a cautious welcome to the government’s announcement of new social distancing laws.

Last night the government announced that from Monday social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England.

The new law will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

Exemptions will apply for weddings, funerals and organised team sports in a Covid-secure way – and where the household or support bubble is larger than six.

MORE: Government considering nationwide 10pm curfew

The prime minister said in a press conference this afternoon: “I know that over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing.

“We are responding, and we are simplifying and strengthening the rules, making them easier for everyone to understand.”

Venues will also now be legally required to request test and trace information from customers and keep the details for 21 days.

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Nick Attfield, Adnams head of properties, welcomed the simplification of the social distancing rules and praised the fact that they are now law rather than guidelines.

But he said the new rules would lead to some difficult conversations.

“I have complete empathy for people,” he said. “I know we’d organised a golden wedding celebration coming up for two households. “Now we’re going to have to have a really horrible conversation.”

He also questioned who was responsible for those not adhering to the rules in pubs and restaurants.

He said: “Who is breaking the law? Is it us by being lied to by customers? Or the customers themselves?

“I suppose you’ve got to prove to you that you’ve done everything right.

“It’s a bit like if someone’s got a really good fake ID and I served them alcohol – I think I could fairly well prove that I’ve done everything I possibly could.”

Mike Garling, owner of the LP nightclub in Bury St Edmunds, also voiced his concerns over how difficult the new rules will be to enforce.

“We have door staff who monitor the ins and outs of our customers,” he said. “So there is some level of enforcement that we can do.

“But in reality it’s extremely difficult to police once people are in a venue.

“We don’t let people move between tables and things like that – you have to stay in your own reserved area.

“We’ll be more vigilant about that sort of thing in the coming weeks.”

Despite this, Mr Garling was accepting of the new measures in the hope that they would help bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end.

He said: “Having said all of what I’ve said, getting rid of this virus or getting it to a point where it is manageable – that’s really got to be the goal.”