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JD Wetherspoon to relax face mask rules on 19 July

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People are seen inside a Wetherspoon pub, on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered all pubs to close in response to the number of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continuing to grow, in London, Britain, March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Wetherspoon is leaving it up to customers on if they wish to record their visits via the NHS test and trace system or via paper forms. Photo: Reuters

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) has announced its plans for fully reopening its venues come freedom day (19 July), which includes going easy on rules around the wearing of face masks, as its CEO said deemed COVID rules were "absurd".

Staff and customers will be told to wear masks 'at their discretion' rather than mandating they be worn anytime they leave their tables, as is currently the case.

The business is also leaving it up to customers on whether they wish to record their visits via the NHS test and trace system or via paper forms.

Another change to current rules is that group sizes will no longer be limited to six.

The government has said that most legal restrictions to control COVID-19 will be lifted on 19 July.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “Wetherspoon had over 50 million customer visits, recorded through the test and trace system, in the second half of 2020 without a single reported example of an 'outbreak' amongst customers, as defined by the health authorities."

The business has therefore decided to go back to the measures agreed upon by authorities when pubs reopened in England back in July 2020.

Read more: Staff shortages and Track and Trace stymie reopening on freedom day

Meanwhile Martin said: "It is hoped that arbitrary and capricious government rules, which have been a regular feature in recent months, such as the requirement for substantial meals, curfews and table service, which have no scientific provenance, can be avoided in future.

“These sorts of rules damage the economy, are extraordinarily difficult for pub staff to implement and are invariably regarded by customers as absurd.”

The company will retain some of the procedures it currently has, so screens between tables in pubs will remain and it will continue to maintain increased cleaning of contact points.

It will wants to encourage customers to use the order and pay apps to reduce contact at the bar, although they do have the option to order at the bar.

The news comes as businesses have warned that as more and more people are being asked by the NHS COVID-19 app to self-isolate, they are running seriously short on manpower.

Watch: Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?

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