All restrictions in England are set to be dropped on 19 July, health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday, however events and nightclubs are being urged to make use of Covid certification.
A plan is due to be published "encouraging businesses and events to use certification in high-risk settings", even though both Javid and Boris Johnson said last week that ‘vaccine passports' would not be required to enter hospitality venues.
During a press conference, the prime minister said that he "didn't expect that the whole country will return to their desk as one from Monday" and that the government was "urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS Covid pass".
As of Monday, nightclubs will be permitted to reopen, all legal limits on the numbers of people meeting indoors and outdoors will be removed, the requirement for table service in venues will also end and the government will no longer instruct people to work from home.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association said it marked "the beginning of nightlife's long journey to rebuild itself".
He said: "There are some important hurdles ahead for our sector, including changes to the isolation rules which have the potential to throw the recovery off course, but for those businesses that have made it this far in the pandemic, I feel confident that the sense of community and togetherness the sector has shown to this point will help us overcome these challenges.
"We look forward to the government providing more guidance for businesses owners – this should be practical and easy to navigate. But from today's statement we can say that the government are right not to mandate the use of Covid status certification systems. Much of the night-time economy relies on spontaneous consumers, and by permitting businesses to opt out, the government have allowed for this trade to continue."
Joel Williams, director and operations manager at Jamaican street food event catering company Artel's, said enquiries were already increasing daily: "There seems to be a change in public opinion and mood, so it's been positive.
"A lot of corporate clients are starting to enquire more. Before it was just completely private weddings, that was it really. Whereas now there have been a few more public-facing events, which is good because they have bigger budgets."
However, he was against the idea of Covid certification being used at events: "I just think it's a slippery slope… we just have to put all the appropriate measures in place to make sure that people can use their common sense and protect one another."
Offices reopening could be particularly positive for business and industry caterers after more than a year of people being advised to work from home, with members of the Food Service Circle welcoming the news.
Catherine Roe, chief executive of contract caterer Elior UK, said she was "delighted" with the lifting of restrictions but added: "Without an express working from home message from the government, we remain cautiously optimistic about the impact this will have on the timing of workers returning to offices."
Wendy Bartlett, founder of caterer Bartlett Mitchell, said that even before the announcement there were "clear signs" businesses were "accelerating their reopening plans".
She said: "It will be a challenge to understand what numbers will look like in workplaces. As a caterer we are agile and adaptable to all sorts of changes in demands, so we're quite used to not knowing what our numbers, and we always expect the unexpected so we will manage, come what may."
Some businesses have already said they will continue to ask guests and staff to wear masks and several operators remained cautious.
Trevor Gulliver, co-founder of London restaurant group St John, told The Caterer the team would be taking a gradual approach to lifting restrictions.
He said: "We will be patient and watch how things evolve. We will not be rushing to drop masks or any protocols within any of the restaurants because [the pandemic] changes sometimes in the space of two or three days.
"We're in central London and we need to respect the confidence of our customers and our staff, we won't be rushing to put out the bunting."
The same cautious approach will also be adopted in the reopening of its restaurant at London's Bridge Theatre, which currently only offers drinks service.
"[The restaurant] is an important source of revenue and it supports the theatre, but we must have patience. The most important thing is that people have confidence to come back to the theatre first," said Gulliver.
Danny Pecorelli, managing director of the Exclusive Collection, welcomed the news but highlighted that venues still had a duty of care to both their teams and the general public and the government was now putting the onus on businesses.
"We're now grappling with what is the right level, as well maintain some of the protocols we put in place early on," he said. "We have to consider the impact for everyone. We will gradually remove some of the social distancing measures. But it will be gradual."
Although, he added that the relaxation of social distancing would be "huge" for the whole industry: "From a viability perspective this is important for many people."
There remain concerns about how the industry will staff the increase in demand with widely reported shortages already, a problem being further exacerbated by workers having to self-isolate when notified by the NHS Test and Trace app, a policy which is due to continue until 16 August.
Ministers have suggested that the sensitivity of the NHS app may be adjusted, although this has not been confirmed. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told The Caterer: "The app is doing exactly what it was designed to do – informing close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 that they are at risk and advising them to isolate.
"The app is, and has always been, advisory. In the context of rising cases it is vital people are aware of their personal risk so they can make informed decisions on their behaviour to protect those around them."
Tevin Tobun, chief executive of logistics and distribution firm GV Group, said "sustainable solutions" were needed before the lifting of restrictions compounded with existing pressures on the industry.
The government has permitted lorry drivers to work longer hours but the Road Haulage Association warned the extension was only a "sticking plaster" that made the job "less attractive" and failed to address the shortfall of drivers.