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Catastrophic: Johnson has to get a grip for the sake of our industry

Catastrophic.

That’s how UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls described the government’s latest advice on social distancing.

Boris Johnson addressed the nation, declaring that people should avoid “pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues”. But these places will not be ordered to close. They will be expected to do so voluntarily.

It’s nonsense. Venues can stay open but people are being strongly advised not to go to them? Then why on earth are they being allowed to stay open? What kind of policy is that?

The kind of policy that means that businesses will not be entitled to the same insurance payouts as if the government had ordered them to close, I imagine.

I’m not the only one imagining this, either. Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, called the measures a “crippling blow”, saying: “As the social distancing measures announced this afternoon are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of COVID-19.”

And writing on Twitter, event industry recruiter Robert Kenward said: “To be honest, it smacks of lawyers and ensuring no comeback on them. The onus is being put onto us so they can’t take the blame for anything and it removes any liability. What about things like golf clubs and the gym, so many variables left…

“Unfortunately the whole “good old Boris” routine unravels very quickly in times of crisis. Just think of the closures in the hospitality/MICE #eventprofs industry due to the vagueness of his terms, it’s staggering and as a recruiter into the sector myself, it’s a scary time.”

Indeed, Johnson’s vague terminology has caused unrest across the sector, with eventprofs scrabbling around in the aftermath to make some sense of what it means for those staging events this week.

Do you cancel your services or wait for the client to make a choice? If you go ahead and then someone contracts coronavirus at the venue – who is liable? Uncertainty reigns.

All these questions could have been avoided if Johnson had chosen to make a decision. To show leadership. To do the decent thing. But he did not.

All of this at the first of what are set to be daily Downing Street press conferences. For the sake of our industry and the wider country, Johnson has to get a grip – and fast.