Tesco chairman warns two-metre rule will have ‘enormous impact’ on business

The president adds his own voice to that political pressure with a warning that many businesses simply won’t be viable under 2m distancing, leading to mounting insolvencies and soaring dole queues. He says: “Social distancing has an enormous impact on the capacity of an awful lot of businesses. Put crudely, if we move from 2m to 1m, you can accommodate in a café or restaurant four times as many people.

“To be honest, 2m will mean that an awful lot of hospitality businesses will just not be viable so I think there is a dialogue going on with the Government about how necessary it is and for how long it is necessary to retain 2m.”

According to Allan, other sectors like construction have found workarounds and there is “more than one way of skinning a cat”, such as checkout barriers in supermarkets: “We would not be saying let’s trample all over worker safety or customer safety, but where are the areas we could relax without putting people at material additional risk.”

Alongside social distancing, getting the economy back on its feet has also been hampered by lengthy school closures, which Allan is concerned is exacting a “huge price” on pupils through lost education as well as preventing parents from heading back to the workplace.

Although he again steers carefully clear of criticising ministers’ approach to schools which will remain largely shuttered until September, he argues business would be ready to help on remedial schemes to repair the damage if called on: “If you’re going to do stuff over the summer, maybe quite a lot of it could be done outdoors. Maybe we need to erect marquees in school grounds, there is plenty of spare marquee capacity at the moment as things are not happening. If business was given a strong lead by the Government, it would actually respond enormously.”

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