Oxford City Council is reminding businesses and people in charge of public areas that they have a duty to keep staff and customers safe despite the relaxation of Covid rules.
From 19 July, all businesses in England are allowed to open as normal and most emergency Covid regulations have been removed, except in specific circumstances.
With cases still high, and the government emphasising the need for a cautious approach, many business owners and the public have been concerned about which precautions to take.
Advice to businesses
Across Oxfordshire, Council regulatory teams have been advising businesses how to implement Covid regulations throughout lockdown. The teams are now offering advice on what regulation businesses should follow to keep places where people meet safe as we move to Step 4 of Government’s Roadmap.
Although pubs, restaurants and bars are no longer required to only provide table service or follow other social distancing rules, business owners and other people in charge of public areas or events still have a legal obligation under health and safety legislation to protect people from harm.
The Oxfordshire Coronavirus Regulatory Partners, representing the county’s local authority environmental health, trading standards and public health teams, in liaison with Thames Valley Police are writing to businesses across the County to advise how to move into Step 4 as safely as possible. The letter contains advice from the Director of Public Health, Ansaf Azhar, who has stressed the importance of continuing to follow public health guidance and to get vaccinated. The partners are also asking businesses for their views in an online survey.
All businesses should follow the principles set out in the government’s Working Safely Guidance, which was updated on 22 July.
The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified.
Employers must continue to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations to help employers and people in charge of public areas protect staff and users.
Business owners are encouraged to complete an anonymous online survey about their arrangements so that the Oxfordshire local authorities can help businesses stay within the law and reduce the risks from COVID-19.
How customers can help
Customers can help keep businesses safe and reduce the risk to staff by following any Covid safety measures businesses request. This might include wearing a mask indoors, checking in to a venue, or following queuing systems.
All adults in Oxford City are encouraged to get a PCR test at extra testing centres that are located in the city in response to steeply rising cases. There is more information about the vaccination programme, where to get the jab, and vaccine safety on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group website.
“The rules changed on the 19th but the threat Covid poses to our communities and local economy has not. Government has encouraged people to make their own decisions but their emphasis on personal caution shows we all still need to think about others we’re in contact with. And those who employ people or who are in charge of business, public places or public events are still legally required to manage risks to others.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council