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With the Prime Minister announcing that ‘COVID-secure’ guidelines are set to become a legal obligation, global health and safety expert Bureau Veritas has advised that businesses must step up their fight against coronavirus transmission with a more robust and formalised framework to avoid the risk of fines or closure.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday 22 September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that for retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, COVID-secure guidelines – introduced in May to help businesses safely reopen post-lockdown – are to become legal obligations. This means that businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.

Bureau Veritas, which has been working with various sectors throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help them implement COVID-secure guidance, has described the move as ‘monumental’. As such, it is encouraging firms not to delay in introducing stricter coronavirus measures – supported with formalised systems and processes and regular monitoring. 

Ken Smith, UK Chief Executive at Bureau Veritas UK, said: “In recent weeks, there’s been much public debate and confusion on the lack of consistency in introducing, maintaining and enforcing COVID-secure measures such as social distancing, the wearing of face coverings and hand hygiene. 

“From workplaces and schools, through to shops, restaurants and bars, and hotels – in today’s speech to the Commons, Boris Johnson has sought to provide clarity to consumers and businesses alike by making it a legal requirement for certain sectors to adhere to the ‘COVID-secure’ measures announced in May. 

“The move is monumental and shows that the government is serious about businesses going further in helping to tackle the spread of coronavirus. As experts in helping businesses become ‘COVID-secure’, our advice is clear – firms should heed the warning, tighten up their procedures and processes, introduce stricter measures and monitoring if necessary, otherwise they risk being fined.”

The UK government also confirmed it would extend the requirement to wear face coverings to include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

Ken added: “At a time when many firms are still grappling with the challenges of getting their businesses back up and running after months of lockdown restrictions, keeping up with and introducing evolving requirements is no doubt an added pressure. For those seeking further clarification on the latest announcement, it’s worth bringing in an outside compliance consultancy such as Bureau Veritas - like many sectors, we’ve adapted rapidly to become experts in understanding the correct health, hygiene and safety practices to protect staff and customers whilst remaining safely operational. 

“The good news is, many firms already have fairly stringent COVID-secure measures in place, so it’s really a case of formalising a best practice approach and remaining as vigilant as possible to potential outbreaks, as ultimately, this will help to save lives. Thinking now in a different way as to how organisations are run, how people are engaged is essential as remember these measures are there to ensure protection of staff and customers.”

The ‘Restart Your Business With Bureau Veritas’ service provides a voluntary, independent assessment of a firm’s ‘COVID-secure’ status, with a statement of assurance issued on completion that can be displayed on its website and at its properties. 

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