By Lora Jones
Business reporter, BBC News

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

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Pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland will close for four weeks from Friday, to try to stop the spread of coronavirus, echoing measures already taken in central Scotland.

Meanwhile, pubs and bars in parts of England placed under ”very high” alert must close, unless they operate as a restaurant.

What are the rules for pubs in England?

All pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues in England permitted to operate must close by 22:00 BST.

Venues that are licensed to serve alcohol are restricted by law to table service only, except for takeaways.

In all cases, table

bookings of more than six are not allowed and groups can’t mingle.

Businesses are legally required to take customers’ contact details, so they can be traced if there is an outbreak. They can be fined up to £10,000 if they do not do this or if they take reservations of more than six, or do not enforce social distancing.

Staff in hospitality venues must now wear masks, as must customers when not seated at their table to eat or drink. The penalty for not wearing one, or breaking the ”rule of six” has doubled to £200 for a first offence.

What about ”high” and ”very high” risk areas?

The Liverpool City Region is currently under ”very high” coronavirus alert.

This means pubs and bars there cannot open unless they ”operate as if they were a restaurant” and serve ”substantial” meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of those meals.

In areas on ”high” alert – such as Durham and Newcastle – people are banned from mixing in pubs or restaurants with anyone from outside their own household.

What are the new rules in Scotland?

Bars and restaurants in Scotland currently have to close at 22:00 BST.

Under the new rules, all licensed premises in the Central Belt must close completely until Sunday 25 October at the earliest.

That means the area covered by the health boards for Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Forth Valley and Ayrshire and Arran – where cases of the virus have been rising sharply. It includes Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Outside the central belt, pubs, cafes and restaurants will only be able to open indoors between 06:00 and 18:00 BST, and will not be allowed to sell alcohol during those hours.

However, they will be able to serve alcohol outdoors between 1800 and 2200 BST.

Hotel restaurants across the country will also be able to serve meals to residents in the evening, but will not be allowed to sell alcohol.

Across Scotland, a maximum of six people from up to two households will still be able to meet up in hospitality venues, subject to the revised opening hours.

There will be exceptions for “significant life events” such as wedding receptions and funeral wakes, which will be able to continue in line with current rules across the whole of the country.

What are the pub rules around the rest of the UK?

In Wales, pubs, bars and restaurants stop serving at 22:00, and customers will have to be off the premises by 22:20. Supermarkets and off-licences are not allowed to sell alcohol after that time.

In Northern Ireland, pubs currently have to stop serving at 22:30 and must shut their doors by 23:00. From Friday 16 October, all pubs and restaurants will close for four weeks, apart from deliveries and takeaways, which must end by 23:00 each night.

media captionCoronavirus: NI’s new pub and restaurant rules explained

But pubs that only serve drinks can now reopen, joining pubs that also serve food.

How do social distancing rules affect pubs?

Social distancing across the UK is officially 2m – but in England people can be “1m plus” if they, for instance, wear a face covering or don’t sit face-to-face.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes can keep individual groups closer than 2m if they take certain steps to keep customers safe.

Areas under local restrictions because of high coronavirus rates have different rules.

What contact details do I have to provide?

UK pub and hospitality bodies have published guidance for bars and restaurants on how to operate contact tracing.

  • Contact details only need to be taken from one person in a group
  • The details must be kept for 21 days
  • Customers only need to give their name and phone number. Owners should note when they arrive and how long they stay
  • Data can be taken in any way – paper, online or during a phone booking

If a customer tests positive, will the pub or restaurant have to close?

Possibly, but not necessarily.

Official government advice says an NHS Test and Trace call does not always mean a pub or restaurant must close.

It depends on the circumstances and when the infected person visited.

NHS Test and Trace could ask staff to:

  • get tested for Covid-19
  • take extra care with social distancing
  • self-isolate “in some circumstances”

Local health protection officials have the power to close establishments.

Several pubs have temporarily closed after customers or staff tested positive for coronavirus.

If you are contacted personally by NHS Test and Trace, you should follow the advice and be prepared to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Is it safe to go to the pub?

Guidance has been issued in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on measures that pubs and restaurants must take to keep customers and staff safe.

  • The option of ordering food on apps
  • Staff should wash their hands before handling plates and cutlery
  • Music should be kept at a low volume to avoid people needing to shout, which increases the risk of transmission
  • Pub-goers will be encouraged to book tables in advance
  • Live gigs will be allowed, but should be outside where possible
  • Controlled access to toilets

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