Temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act would allow restaurants, cafes and bars to be opened as of 1 June while restricting their operations
On 19 May, the Government submitted to Parliament a proposal for an act on temporarily amending the Communicable Diseases Act. The Communicable Diseases Act would be amended by temporarily adding new provisions to it, under section 58a. The proposed act would be in force between 1 June 2020 and 31 October 2020.
With the emergency conditions continuing, the act would lay down provisions on necessary restrictions concerning food and beverage service businesses that would allow them to be open to customers while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The restrictions would be lifted in accordance with the government resolution of 6 May 2020 in such a way that customers and staff of restaurants, cafes and bars could be protected from COVID-19 and the spread of infections prevented.
To avoid the risk of infection, the number of customer seats in restaurants, cafes and bars would be reduced and attention would be paid to maintaining sufficient physical distances between customers, for example.
It is proposed that restrictions also be imposed on opening and licensing hours. There is also a need for provisions obligating food and beverage service businesses to have an infection reduction plan for their operations, and provisions on hygiene requirements for premises.
Due to the emergency conditions caused by the coronavirus epidemic, restaurants, cafes and bars have been closed to customers since 4 April 2020. By limiting the number of customers permitted and the opening and licensing hours, most food and beverage service businesses would be able to reopen their doors to customers.
The Regional State Administrative Agencies would have the task of overseeing compliance with the restrictions and obligations. These Agencies could order any shortcomings and deficiencies to be put right and could also order an establishment to be closed to customers for up to a month if there is a significant violation of the obligations.
Further provisions on necessary restrictions could be issued by decree
As soon as the proposed act has been approved, the Government intends to issue a temporary government decree under the act. The aim is that if the epidemiological situation so permits, the restrictions could be eased by modifying the decree. The decree could also be used to tighten the restrictions if necessary.
Under the decree, the restrictions would apply across the country as of 1 June 2020. However, the structure of the decree would allow the Government to ease the restrictions by region, if necessary.
In its negotiations, the Government decided on the restrictions that would be specified by decree. A draft of the decree is annexed to the proposal for an act on temporarily amending the Communicable Diseases Act.
Customers of restaurants need to be provided with instructions on how to avoid contracting the virus. Food and beverage service businesses would have to make sure to adequately clean all surfaces and objects that customers touch.
They would also have a general obligation to arrange the structures and furniture of their indoor and outdoor facilities as well as their service practices in such a way as to prevent customers’ exposure to the virus. Beverage and food service businesses would not be permitted to place individual customers or groups of customers too close to one another. The decree would not, however, lay down provisions on exact distances in metres.
Under the decree, all customers in food and beverage service businesses would need to have their own seats by a table or counter. Customers could pick up purchases from, for example, a counter.
However, they would not be allowed to serve or dish out their own food or drinks, for example at a buffet table. The decree would also cut the number of customers permitted by half from the normal total.
In addition to these restrictions, food and beverage service businesses would be allowed to be open to customers only between 6.00 and 23.00 and they could serve alcohol only between 9.00 and 22.00. If customers buy an alcoholic beverage before 22.00, this would need to be consumed by 23.00, which would be the closing time.
Food and beverage service businesses would be required to draw up a plan on how to implement these restrictions and obligations. The plan and the maximum permitted number of customers would have to be displayed where customers can see them.
Ismo Tuominen, Senior Ministerial Adviser,[email protected]